"I 4 d'Albenga"

A visit to Albenga cannot forget the typical products of the city: among the most famous among the local gastronomic ones there are four typical products of the plain inguaìna production, and are known as "i 4 d'Albenga": violet asparagus, trumpet courgette, violet or thorny artichoke, tomato heart of ox. They are agricultural products that do not have much diffusion outside the production area but are required and presented by the best restaurants in Italy.It is a pity that we find it hard to find them in stores outside of Liguria , but a trip to see the city may be the excuse to stock up on these rarities.

Violet Asparagus

The violet asparagus is a Slow Food presidium, characterized by very large shoots and the intense violet color that gradually fades down towards the base. The Violetto d’Albenga asparagus is a unique variety in the world, in fact it has a particular genetic characteristic: having 40 chromosomes instead of 20 like all the other asparagus, the Violet cannot interbreed with other varieties and thus its purity is preserved. The alluvial soils of the Piana di Albenga are perfect for cultivation, thanks to the deep sandy and silty layer and the microclimate. Steamed and dipped in a Taggiasca extra virgin olive oil, they offer inimitable aromas and flavors, but they also accompany very delicate foods: boiled fish, steamed, baked, white meats or refined sauces. They are particularly soft, almost buttery and not at all fibrous.

Mesopotamian origin, asparagus spread in ancient times first as a medicinal plant, for its remarkable diuretic and digestive properties, and then as a food plant. Although the Ligurian regional production of asparagus has halved in recent decades, in the early 1960s Albenga is still cited as one of the largest asparagus growing centers in Italy. Currently, the production of Albenga violet asparagus is estimated at around 160 tons per year.

Trumpet courgette

The trumpet courgette is an annual herbaceous species, owes its name to the elongated shape of the fruit, which thickens slightly at one end. It is a local selection, traditionally reproduced on the farm by the farmers themselves and by a few specialized nurserymen. Very versatile in the kitchen, it is used in numerous preparations such as savory pies, stewed, fried, kneaded or even stuffed. The flavor of the trumpet courgettes of Albenga is delicious, far superior to the common courgettes. The seeds are all concentrated in the final swelling, so almost all of the Albenga trumpet is made up of compact pulp and top quality soda, which facilitates many culinary preparations. Excellent for example as a pasta sauce or even on its own.

Present in the Mediterranean basin since before the Christian era (Pliny the Elder maintains in his Naturalis historia that the most valuable among food-grade pumpkins are the longest and thinest and suspended ones, just like those still grown in Albenga today) the courgette trombetta possesses organoleptic and nutritional characteristics of great value, but due to the difficulty of transport it has not had much notoriety outside of the Western Liguria. Current production is estimated at 500/600 tons per year.

Spiny artichoke

Also known as "violet of Albenga" or "thorny violet of Albenga", it is characteristic for the consistency of the internal bracts (leaves), which are exceptionally tender, crunchy and sweet. It is impossible to confuse it with the other species of central and southern Italy due to the conical shape of the flower head, the external "leaves" water-colored in dark green with purplish shades and yellowish thorns.

Less fibrous and with a more delicate taste than the Sardinian cousin, it is particularly appreciated if eaten raw. The stem is just as delicious.

Known by the Egyptians and the Arabs who already cultivated it in the 4th century BC the plant called karshuf (or kharshaf), a term from which our artichoke derives, spread in Italy during the Renaissance as a delicacy destined to the tables of the rich and noble. Its hepato-biliary therapeutic action is recognized by the official pharmacopoeia. The Napoleonic prefect Count Gilberto Chabrol de Volvic gave evidence of its cultivation in Liguria and in particular in the Albenganese area in 1805.

Oxheart tomatoes

The oxheart tomatoes, also called “Pomodoro di Albenga” or “Pera ligure”, is the result of a series of selections and natural crossings operated by Ligurian farmers. The cultivar has indeterminate growth; vigorous, it produces fruits weighing 300 g, heart-shaped and ribbed, light red or orange.

It has a rather unusual shape, ribbed and irregular. The red-pinkish pulp is very compact and consistent, poor in seeds and juice. Its taste, perfect balance of sweetness and acidity makes it ideal for salads and for excellent sauces and past.

Originally from the American continent and imported by the Spanish into Europe in the sixteenth century, it was cultivated as an ornamental plant, because it was considered toxic, until 1800, when it was finally recognized as edible. The cultivation of tomatoes in the Savona area and in particular in the plain of Albenga is attested at the beginning of the nineteenth century, but it is only since the eighties that the heart of an ox has the upper hand over traditional varieties. The current production of the heart of Albenga tomato is estimated at around 2,000 tons.