Italy: Harvesting of Spinoso artichokes

"It was yet another unique year characterised by a hot dry summer and water rationing in some areas. Crops seemed only slightly late at first but a few operators had to wait as much as 20-25 days. This was due to the prolonged heat and then a drop in temperatures from September onwards. The first variety to be harvested was Tema and the harvesting of Spinoso started two weeks later," explains agronomist Orazio Casalino.

Spinoso artichokes. (Source: "Coltivatori di carciofi" Facebook page)

"We feared an excessive production due to the heat, which would have driven prices down. Now we need to be wary about frost: if it's just a few hours and temperatures don't go too low, then quality might only be slightly affected. However, there would be more serious problems for the Spinoso, Violetto and Romanesco varieties in case of prolonged frost." Casalino is anyway happy temperatures have dropped a little and that it rained as well, as quality improved considerably.

"Prices of medium-high quality produce are good, while they're a bit low for the second or third category. I do believe the colder weather will fix this, though. Plants grow more heads when it's warm, leading to unbalanced supply and demand. The cold weather slows down the productive cycle and improves quality. There is less produce available on the market and prices remain high."

Early artichokes are grown in the Sassari and Cagliari areas.

Spinoso artichokes. (Source: "Coltivatori di carciofi" Facebook page)

Although the produce remains on the domestic market, Casalino feels Europe is slowly getting to know Italian artichokes. "We should all work on promoting their nutritional properties though. Artichokes are rich in iron and copper, they facilitate diuresis, contract cellulite, help eliminate toxins, lower cholesterol and help digestion, thanks to their cynarin content. They are also an antioxidant, they're rich in fibre, are recommended for diabetics and they protect the liver."

"In addition, a tutorial would be needed on how to clean and eat raw Spinoso artichokes without getting hurt. We are also working a lot on the fresh-cut and pre-cooked ranges."

Last but not least, Sardinia is currently working on Carciofo Spinoso Sardo DOP.

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