• English: Baby Purple Artichoke, Fiesole Artichoke
  • Italian: Carciofo violetto

Artichokes belong to a species of thistle and the edition part of the plant is the flower bud. Native to the Mediterranean, artichokes were eaten by the ancient Greeks and Roman.

Italians, in particular, are known for their love of artichokes. Yet outside the region, very few people like artichokes because of its peculiar taste and the tiny part of the heart that can be eaten.

That being said, artichokes are really good for you because they contain the highest amount of anti-oxidants in vegetables.

But the Baby Purple Artichoke is different.

Much smaller in size than the regular green-coloured artichokes, Italy’s best-kept secret – the Carciofo Violetto – are becoming known to the outside world. They are not baby, because they are already full grown when ready to be harvested. The purple colour gives it a beautiful brown hue when grilled or braised.

Because the soft edible area of the Baby Purple Artichoke is bigger, you actually get more out of this “baby” version than the regular artichoke.

Why you must taste Italy’s Baby Purple Artichoke

The Baby Purple Artichoke has a more exquisite and tender taste compared to regular artichokes. It is much softer in texture and certainly creamier. Hard to imagine it is actually a flower bud.

Italy is the world’s largest producer of artichokes, but you can rarely get hold of their Baby Purple Artichokes.

The most prized Baby Purple Artichoke is the “Violetto di Sant’Erasmo” grown in the Venetian lagoon, where I got mine. The price is high for this artichoke and the season is normally in the month of May. Because of the micro-climate and the sea breezes in the Venetian region, the artichoke, which is normally a southern vegetable, grows very well here. The Violetto di Sant’Erasmo is fleshy and tender, with an elongated shape and a deep purple.

There are other varieties of carciofo violetto in Italy, such as the ones from Livorno (more oval shaped than that of Venice but contains a more yellowish inside) and from Castellammare (which is more red than purple).

The most famous of all Italian Baby Purple Artichokes is the Sicilian variety. The shape ranges between cylindrical to round, and the colour fades from green into purple.

I have prepared my Violetto di Sant’Erasmo in two simple recipes – braised in white wine and grilled with garlic and parmesan, although the simplest way to eat artichokes are to cook them in water and then eat them with salt and some olive oil.

Why Fiesole Artichoke is a misnomer

For some strange reason, Americans call the Carciofo Violetto – “Fiesole Artichokes”. Fiesole is a commune of Florence in Tuscany. They are not particularly known for cultivating the Carciofo Violetto. But somehow, this misnomer seems to spread on English-language websites. It is for this reason that I prefer to call it the Purple Artichoke or Carciofo Violetto.