The 4 of Albenga: the famous vegetables of Liguria
What are the colours that remind you of Liguria? To us not only the blue of the sea and the pastel tones of the old houses, but also those related to the fruits of the earth. Our region has an ancient peasant vocation and in the surroundings, precisely in the Albenga plain, there are some of the best known Ligurian products. The 4 of Albenga call them: they are the prickly artichoke, the violet asparagus, the ox heart tomato and the trumpet courgette.
The territory of Albenga
About 10 km from our village in Loano – towards the west – is the ancient town of Albenga. As we have illustrated in a previous article, “the city of a hundred towers” is definitely worth a visit for its historical and artistic beauties. Unlike what one might think, however, its economy is not based only on tourism, but is still tied to the agricultural reality. Its territory, in fact, is also known outside the regional borders for the large production of flowers, aromatic plants and vegetables. Among the latter, the famous “4 d’Albenga” stand out.
Liguria peasant land
Liguria is a region that jealously guards its ancient flavors. Extra virgin olive oil, basil and pesto are certainly its best-known products. But have you ever wondered what makes them so special? It is no coincidence that some fruits of the earth are better here than elsewhere. The scent of the Ligurian sea and the chemical-physical characteristics of the soil, in fact, give fruit and vegetables unique properties. It is not just about tradition and romance, therefore: the geographical context represents a fundamental element in the development of peculiar flavours and aromas. The 4 of Albenga are also part of this perspective, currently awaiting the recognition of a brand (PGI or PDO) that certifies and protects its qualities.
Albenga’s violet asparagus
The violet asparagus has obtained the “Slow Food Presidium” mark, which aims to defend ancient and genuine food; fights food waste and defends small producers. With an intense purple colour, this curious vegetable with large shoots is unique in the world: its genetic characteristic (it has 40 chromosomes instead of 20 like all the others) makes it practically impossible to cross with other varieties of asparagus. Just the alluvial soils of the Albenga plain, with its sandy and silty layers, offer the nutrients necessary for the development of violet asparagus. Currently its production is around 160 tons per year
The courgette trumpet
The courgette or pumpkin trumpet owes its name to the twisted shape that swells at the end. This happens above all when it grows directly on the field, while if it develops on the pergolas, the trumpet squash assumes a more elongated shape. Finding it outside the regional borders is practically impossible: to taste it, you must come to Liguria. Its perishability and volume, in fact, make it difficult to transport.
With a bright red color and the characteristic ribbed shape, the ox heart tomato represents one of the most appreciated fruits of our territory. Its irregular appearance derives from natural crossings and selections created by Ligurian farmers over the years. Once ripe, its fruits can reach 300 grams, turning into tasty and fresh compact pulp. Their flavor is balanced: not too sweet, nor sour: perfect for summer salads!
The thorny artichoke of Albenga
Impossible not to recognize our prickly artichoke. The “Albenga violet”, in fact, stands out from the Italian cousins for its vibrant purple color and the conical shape of the flower head. With its characteristic tender leaves and delicate taste, it is confirmed as the king of winter vegetables. Artichoke recipes enrich any dish: from traditional risottos to delicious Ligurian frisceu.
If you want a taste of the aromas of the 4 d’Albenga, we remind you that it is possible to find zucchini and tomatoes from April to October; asparagus from March to June and artichokes from December to March. Here are some of the recipes where it is easier to find them:
• Cundijun: it is a fresh summer salad. There are several variations, but ox heart tomatoes never fail!
• Frisceu: the typical Ligurian vegetable pancakes. You know, frying makes any ingredient tasty, but the Albenga courgettes and artichokes seem born for this recipe!
• Risotto with asparagus: to amaze with an unusual dish, bring a risotto to the table… purple!
Intense red, green and iridescent purple are the colours of Liguria that we love. The one that gathers around a table, to enjoy small authentic joys together.