The spring épine artichokes are hitting the markets in Liguria and they’re a seasonal treat not to be missed! I admit they aren’t the friendliest looking things, more like something a Klingon would eat, but don’t let that put you off. Knowing how to prepare them is really quite empowering.
As a public service, throughout the markets in Italy you’ll find burly men wielding sharp knives, skilfully removing the tough, spiky outer leaves, rubbing the half naked remains with a lemon and then with one quick stroke, “swoosh!” – off goes the stalk! Nice thing is there’s no extra charge and it sure makes transporting them a lot safer.
Even if you’ve brought home some trimmed ones, they’ll still need more preparation before they’re edible. Unlike most artichokes, épines are fabulous eaten raw and the best part is their soft, tender centre leaves and heart.
They’re the star of one of my favourite traditional Ligurian salads, Carciofi Crudi, Rucola e Parmigiano or Raw Artichoke, Arugula and Parmesan Salad.
I often wonder who the first brave person was who looked at these artichokes and said, “Hmm, maybe we can eat these!” Whomever it was, he or she must have been either extraordinarily courageous, voraciously hungry, or both.
So sharpen your knives, take a few deep breaths and let’s get to it!
How to Trim a Spiny Artichoke