Wild Sardinian Artichokes
Where on the whole planet is it best to have good friends? The correct answer, hands down, is the Mediterranean island of Sardegna (Sardinia). Although it is part of Italy, they have the benefit of being a good distance from the nonsense of the mainland while they maintain strong regional culture and revel in the isolation. I once saw a map of Italy made by depicting the foods that most represent the different regions. In this map, Sardegna was simply a block of pecorino cheese and an artichoke. Although that may seem simple and superficial, there’s no reason to deny what they know how to do best.
Our friends Jeremy and Giuseppe are just far enough from the city of Cagliari to have their very own slice of heaven in their backyard. Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in your daily life seems to be good for your soul. This end of Sardegna strikes a nice balance between a great place to get away while still offering plenty of simulating cultural activity. And the local cultural scene is certainly richer for having the talents of Jeremy and Giuseppe within theatre and the mediascape.
Our stay was too short in Sardegna and certainly not long enough to fully explore the island or the artichokes plantations or dishes on offer. These were our last days in Italy for a while, and we were pressing on trying to get in some beach time as the tail end of Autumn started to simmer.
The sun was setting on out first day here and after a little stroll the boys returned to the house with a bag full of wild artichoke, the wildest. Gathered from just up the hill by the caretaker and given to us as a gift. These were the thorniest edible things I’d ever seen and some tougher utensils were pulled out of the back room to deal with preparing them. A good, clean pair of gardening gloves is ideal, and a super sharp knife is the only thing that will get through these toughies.
I ended up using a standard retractable cutting blade you can find at any hardware store. I was a little dubious if these wild things would taste any good and a little wary that they might hold some magical properties like something from the arid deserts of Indigenous Americans. But I was too excited that these artichokes just fell into my lap and I was game to give them a go.
This post is less about the dish I prepared with them, which was a simple mezze maniche (pasta) with white beans and more about the people and the place where these artichoke sprout from. Having traveled around Italy following artichokes has been a great way to experience plenty of the country but the next time I venture over to Sardegna I’ll definitely be looking into sailing the coast line with friends and aiming to find the clearest and most emerald water on the planet.