In the first half of the last century, the San Luca artichoke was one of the main crops grown on the hillsides south of Bologna. Violet artichokes are also very common in the Romagna area, but their cultivation in the clayey soil of the Bolognese hills gives the San Luca artichokes a fresh, herbaceous flavor, with notes of licorice root.
The plant’s life cycle starts in September and runs until the following July. The artichoke plants like clayey soil with good drainage. The soil must be kept loose and aerated. Irrigation must be carefully managed, avoiding an excess of water particularly during the spring. Weeds cannot be controlled using chemical weedkillers. Usually the soil is fertilized twice, in the summer and the spring.
The most prized artichokes are the primary and secondary heads, which are harvested between the middle of May and the middle of June.
With the depopulation of the countryside in the 1970s, this variety also began to be abandoned. These days, the farms that used to be home to the most productive artichoke fields have been turned into luxury residences with esthetic rather than functional gardens. Much of the surrounding land is left uncultivated and little remains of the artichoke fields that once carpeted the hillsides, and the artichokes and carducci (artichoke shoots) that were once common on Bologna’s tables.
However, a few growers have tenaciously maintained this crop and, in recent years, some young people are working on relaunching San Luca artichokes on the local market. The Presidium has arisen out of their initiative.
As with the majority of artichokes, reproduction is agamic, in other words not through seeds but using the many side shoots known as cardetti or carducci. San Luca artichokes can be eaten raw or briefly boiled and dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and salt, but they can also be preserved in oil or turned in spreads and pâtés. The Carducci are also used in various products.
There is not much left today of the artichoke fields that once covered the hillsides near Bologna, nor of the artichokes and carducci (shoots) that abounded on local tables. The San Luca Artichoke owes its survival to the efforts of the Albertazzi family, who live in the hills outside of Bologna and have safeguarded this variety, as well as the precious recipe for artichokes preserved in oil.
In 2005, Bruno Albertazzi started distributing San Luca Artichoke carducci to other farmers in the area. With support from agriculture department of Emilia-Romagna, the regional Slow Food association joined this initiative and has helped to bring producers into the network with the creation of a Presidium. The production protocol drawn up by the Presidium producers calls for organic farming practices (to manage the soil, control weeds, and ensure good drainage) and the use of organic substances as fertilizers. The San Luca Artichoke is a rustic plant, so no defense treatments are required.
The protocol’s main objective is to support the producers in their work, protect and promote the San Luca Artichoke, and involve cooks from the region.
Hills south of Bologna, municipalities of Bologna, Ozzano, Pianoro and San Lazzaro di Savena, Province of Bologna.
Podere San Giuliano, Via Galletta 3, Fraz. Lamura San Carlo, San Lazzaro di Savena (BO), tel. +39 3487635790, firstname.lastname@example.org
Azienda agricola Bruno Albertazzi, Via degli Scalini 14, Bologna, tel. +39 3384392128, email@example.com
Azienda agricola Querzé, Via Tomba Forella 14/a, Fraz. Castel de Britti, San Lazzaro di Savena (BO), tel. +39 3317745851, firstname.lastname@example.org
Azienda agricola Scarpellini, via del Cavicchio 26, Pianoro (BO), tel. +39 3407429598, email@example.com
Azienda agricola I Noci, Via San Leo 5, Fraz. Mercatale, Ozzano (BO), tel +39 3473420805, firstname.lastname@example.org