Rome Travel Guide

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Jewish Artichokes--in September!

When we took this photograph on September 20 of last year, we were both disappointed and surprised.  Disappointed, because the scene was a trifle tacky: a couple of guys on the main street of the area known as the Jewish ghetto, hustling Jewish artichokes and other Kosher delicacies for La Taverna del Ghetto, one of the area's best-known restaurants.  "The King of the Jewish here!"  Was business that bad? 

And we were surprised.  Surprised, because we had always (always being like a decade or two) thought that the "season" for Jewish artichokes--carciofi (artichokes) alla giudia--ended in May and would not begin again until February.  And here we were in mid-September, and these fellows were engaged in the unthinkable: selling Jewish artichokes (deep fried whole, then dipped briefly in cold water) when the proper raw material was, we thought, unavailable.  Yet there, on the table, were, undeniably, artichokes. 

Un carciofo all guidia, ready to eat
It seems there are two kinds of artichoke.  Those in the photo were likely the Roman "globe artichoke," available most of the year (though unusual in September).  But the preparation  "alla giudia" is traditionally accomplished with the carciofo romanesco--what food critic Katie Parla calls "Rome's most venerated vegetable"--and that artichoke has the limited season we note above.  Indeed, European Union IGP (Geographically Protected and Identified) regulations legally establish the season for the carciofo romanesco--February thru May, just as we thought. 

To Romans, these things matter.  Shame on you, La Taverna del Ghetto!

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