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

The violet asparagus

Violet asparagus is protected by the Slow Food brand which has the task of carrying on the culture of good, clean and fair food, fighting food waste, enhancing the economy of small producers. Asparagus is characterized by very large shoots and an intense purple color that gradually fades down towards the base. The Violet 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 other asparagus, the Violet cannot cross with other varieties and thus its purity is preserved. The alluvial soils of the Albenga plain 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, steamed, baked fish, white meats or refined sauces. They are particularly soft, almost buttery and not fibrous at all.

Mesopotamian of origin, asparagus spread in ancient times first as a medicinal plant, due to 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 major centers of asparagus cultivation 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, it owes its name to the elongated shape of the fruit, which grows slightly at one end. It is a local selection, traditionally reproduced on the farm by the growers themselves and by a few specialized nurserymen. Very versatile in the kitchen, it is used in numerous preparations such as savory pies, stewed, fried, mixed or even stuffed. The taste of trombette d'Albenga courgettes is delicious, far superior to common courgettes. The seeds are all concentrated in the final swelling, therefore almost all of the Albenga trumpet is made up of compact and firm pulp of the highest quality, which facilitates many culinary preparations. Excellent for example as a sauce for pasta or even on its own.

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

The spiny artichoke

Also known as "Albenga violet" or "Albenga thorny violet" , it is characteristic for the consistency of the internal bracts (leaves), which are exceptionally tender, crunchy and sweet. 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” painted in dark green with purple hues and the yellowish thorns.

Less fibrous and with a more delicate flavor than the Sardinian cousin, it is particularly appreciated if eaten raw. The stem is equally exquisite.

Known by the Egyptians and Arabs who already cultivated it in the 4th century BC, the plant called karshuf (or kharshaf), term from which our artichoke derives, spread in Italy in the Renaissance period as a delicacy destined for 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 testifies to its cultivation in Liguria and in particular in the Albenganese area.

Oxheart tomatoes

The Cuor di Bue , also known as “Tomato di Albenga” or “Ligurian Pear” , is the result of a series of selections and natural crossings made by Ligurian farmers. The cultivar has indeterminate growth; vigorous, it produces fruits weighing 300 g, heart-shaped and ribbed, light red or orange in color.

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

Originally from the American continent and imported by the Spaniards to 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. Tomato cultivation in the Savona area and in particular in the Albenga plain is attested to the early nineteenth century, but it is only since the 1980s that the ox heart has the upper hand over traditional varieties. The current production of the heart of bue d'Albenga tomato is estimated at around 2,000 tons.