Artichoke hearts from Salerno Italy: a look behind the scenes of the production of this exclusive antipasti speciality
Let us take you on a culinary journey to discover the origins of Italy's delicious artichoke hearts. More specifically, we turn our attention to the Salerno region near Paestum in sunny southern Italy, known for its exquisite artichokes.
The producers of this region are familiar in the art of growing noble artichokes. To ensure premium quality, they use purely organic harvesting techniques. Everything is gently picked and processed by hand. The fertile volcanic soils, the mild climate and the careful traditional handwork make Salerno an ideal place for growing this delicate vegetable.
A brief introduction to the artichoke plant
The artichoke is actually a bud, not a fruit. If not harvested in time, it will develop into a magical purple blue flower. This plant has a long history and its roots go back to the ancient Middle East. The ancient Egyptians were fascinated by it and used it to prepare various dishes. And the Romans also knew how to cook artichokes with water and wine.
The artichoke is known for its upright shape, the elegance of its flower and its unique flavor. The Romans called them "refined." No wonder, then, that it has the affectionate nickname "Queen of the Garden."
The artichoke was brought to Sicily by the Spaniards at the end of the 12th century, and from there spread to the rest of Italy. During the Renaissance, artichokes were a real treat for the nobility. They were served raw and seasoned with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. They were always accompanied by a good glass of wine. Alternatively, they were fried in butter and seasoned with parsley.
The history and mythology of the artichoke give this vegetable a fascinating aura. From ancient legends to the royal tables of the Renaissance, the artichoke has a rich and varied history that is reflected in its popularity and its position as a delicate delicacy. The artichoke hearts, found inside the artichoke, are the true jewel of this vegetable. They are tender, fleshy and have a sweet-sour to bitter-nutty taste.
The area where artichokes are grown: Salerno in Italy
In Salerno, each artichoke has its own character and flavor, which is shaped by the unique soil conditions and the Mediterranean climate. The mild winters and hot summers and the proximity of the Mediterranean Sea make these artichokes (cultivar: Carciofo di Paestum) thrive particularly well. Farmers ensure that the artichokes are processed quickly after harvesting to preserve their freshness and quality.
The fertile soils in Paestum, in the municipality of Capaccio in the province of Salerno, are rich in minerals and nutrients that further give the artichoke hearts their intense aroma and distinctive flavor.
The farmers in this region have centuries of experience in growing artichokes and use traditional sustainable techniques to ensure premium quality. Thanks to the loving care and dedication of the farmers, the artichoke hearts in Salerno can reach their full potential and become a culinary experience for connoisseurs. Once the artichokes are harvested, the process of processing and production of the delicate artichoke hearts begins.
From the field to the pickled artichoke hearts in olive oil: the production steps
Seasonal harvest of mini artichokes in Salerno: when quality meets timing
The harvest of the mini artichokes is carefully planned from April to early May. Depending on the current annual climate, the farmers know the perfect time to harvest these small artichokes by gentle handwork when they have reached maturity and the right size. The season is short, but the culinary results are impressive. The harvest yield, on the other hand, is meager. Six people harvest a mere 100 to 150 kilograms per day.
First step of processing. The transformation: from artichokes to artichoke hearts
After harvesting, the artichokes are gently prepared in elaborate manual work to expose their tender hearts. The outer leaves are carefully removed with a small sharp knife to get to the true treasures of this vegetable. This transformation process is an art in which the producers use their experience and skills to obtain the perfect artichoke hearts.
The smallest artichoke hearts: sorting between 'Il piccolo' and 'Il mignon
In the assortment of mini artichoke hearts, we distinguish between two varieties: 'Il piccolo' and 'Il mignon'. 'Il piccolo' are smallest artichoke hearts (diameter 1.5 to 2 cm about 15 pieces per 180g jar) while 'Il mignon' are even smaller and have a tiny diameter of only 1 cm, per 180g jar there are up to 55 artichoke hearts, which are pickled.
The pickling of artichoke hearts in lemon water
To preserve the freshness and quality of the artichoke hearts, they are soaked in lemon water for three to four hours after being prepared and sorted. This step not only ensures the preservation of the bright yellow color, but also a fresh and slightly acidic taste that emphasizes the natural flavors of the artichoke hearts.
Cooking in harmony: the perfect ratio of water and white wine vinegar
Before the artichoke hearts are filled into jars, they are gently cooked in a mixture of water and white wine vinegar. In a large pan they are cooked in a ratio of 50% water and 50% white wine vinegar for a few minutes.
Craft with love: the careful draping of the artichoke hearts in jars
Placing the artichoke hearts in the jars requires precise craftsmanship, a lot of time and loving devotion. Each individual artichoke heart is carefully placed and draped with tweezers. This step illustrates the appreciation and respect for the product, and shows that each jar is filled with the utmost care.
Time to dry: 24 hours patience for the perfect result
After soft cooking, the artichoke hearts need a lot of time to dry. They are carefully placed on boards of bamboo and line and rest for 24 hours to remove excess moisture. Only then are they carefully placed in the jars together with extra virgin olive oil.
The golden finish: topping up with extra virgin olive oil
To preserve the flavor and preservation, the jars are filled with premium extra virgin olive oil. The oil coats the artichoke hearts and preserves their flavor and tenderness.
Organic quality: Responsible and sustainable.
All the ingredients used in the production of our organic artichoke hearts are organic and sustainable. The family manufactory relies exclusively on environmentally friendly farming methods, avoiding the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Instead, it relies on natural resources and sustainable measures to promote plant health and biodiversity.
In addition, attention is paid to sustainable production in the processing of artichoke hearts. This includes the economical use of water and energy, the highest quality organic products in processing and refining such as organic lemon juice, organic white wine vinegar, the finest sea salt and organic extra virgin olive oil.
Artichoke hearts as an antipasti delicacy: The premium quality of Di Bennardo
The quality of Di Bennardo artichoke hearts is due to several factors. Our artichoke hearts are exclusively of the regional variety "Carciofi di Paestum", whose availability is limited. The round appearance of their flower heads, their high firmness and the absence of thorns in the bracts are the main qualitative and characteristic features of "Carciofo di Paestum". Other typical characteristics of the product are the average size of the flower heads (no more than 4 per stem and kg of product), the stem of less than 10 cm, the green color with purple-pink shades and the fleshy and particularly tasty flower base.
In addition to these characteristics, our premium artichoke hearts are the result of a careful and laborious cultivation technique that our producers of the Sele plain have refined over decades with their know-how. The artichokes are cultivated, harvested and processed in their own fields in a traditional family farm, exactly in the same place of their origin in Paestum near Salerno. The cool and rainy climate during the long production period (February to May), characteristic of this area in Campania, also gives the product its typical and appreciated tenderness and delicacy.
A time-intensive as well as precise craft is in every single artichoke, as only a few manufactories can do. This produces one of the best qualities for artichoke hearts that can be found in Italy. The outer leaves are precisely removed with a knife to get to the precious hearts, which are then further treated with gentle techniques and the best ingredients.
Quality and taste of artichoke hearts
Artichoke hearts have a juicy texture and a distinctive flavor that can be slightly sweet and slightly nutty. Their texture is tender yet fleshy, which makes them offer a pleasant bite. At first contact with the lips, you can feel their smooth texture, also thanks to the extra virgin olive oil.
On the tongue, they leave a gentle bitterness and a finely balanced interplay of sweetness and acidity that spreads pleasantly on the palate. This delicate combination makes the artichoke hearts so unique and distinctive.
In addition, the artichoke hearts and artichoke bottoms have a delicate aromatic note reminiscent of fresh earth and a slight herbal note. Their natural freshness and purity give them a lively character, which is perfectly emphasized by the combination of sea salt, lemon and white wine vinegar.
The artichoke hearts are not only flavorful, but also versatile in their culinary use. They pair perfectly with a variety of dishes including salads, pasta, risotto, antipasti and more. It is a sought-after ingredient in gourmet cuisine worldwide.
Frequently asked questions about artichoke hearts
Artichokes are thistle-like vegetables known for their blue-violet flower heads and tender hearts. They offer a unique flavor with a balanced blend of sweetness, bitterness and a subtle nutty note.
Our organic certified artichoke hearts from Italy are characterized by their outstanding quality, based on careful selection of artichokes, perfect harvest time, sustainable cultivation and traditional craftsmanship. Only organic ingredients are used.
Our mini artichoke hearts are picked at the perfect ripening time in April and May in Salerno near Paestum. After harvesting, the organic artichokes are carefully processed by removing the outer leaves and carefully extracting the tender hearts. Later they are soaked in lemon water for a few hours, cooked, dried for a long time and packed in jars with skilled handwork.
They are naturally rich in vitamin A & C, vitamin E, various B vitamins and minerals such as calcium, phosphate, manganese and iron, which makes them a healthy and delicious addition to a balanced diet. They get 11 grams of fiber per 100 grams, promote fat burning and detoxify the liver with bitter substances.