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Benicarló Artichoke

6 mins, 2 segs

We’re in the middle of a Benicarlo artichoke party!

Did you know that the word “artichoke” comes from the Arabic “a-kharshûf” which means stick of thorns? It is a vegetable very characteristic of the Mediterranean countries and whose origin points to regions of North Africa.

Artichoke cultivation is the protagonist in the area but especially in the city of Benicarló thanks to its protected designation of origin (PDO). In fact, on its coat of arms we can see on the right side a drawing of a thistle.

In spite of being considered a vegetable, the most used part is the flower. Although the stem has more and more culinary uses and can be used to cook sautéed, fried, baked, in purees, broths … In addition, it has coagulating properties that make it an ideal ingredient for making curds and cheese.

The artichoke is a vegetable with many beneficial properties for health that allow the proper functioning of the liver, kidneys and gallbladder, to promote digestion and the elimination of toxins through urine. Because of its fiber content, it also promotes intestinal transit and prevents constipation. In addition, it promotes the reduction of urea and uric acid in the blood, so it can be an ally to be taken into account by patients affected by gout. In short, it is an ideal natural resource to prevent and treat different metabolic conditions, such as high cholesterol or hypertension.

Let’s go with a bit of history!

Apparently, the artichoke was already known by the Greeks and Romans, who gave it aphrodisiac powers.

Its botanical name, Cynara, according to legend, comes from a beautiful girl named Cynara, who was seduced by Zeus, who later transformed her into an artichoke.

It is not known for sure, but it is believed that in the 13th century the cultivation of artichokes for domestic consumption was started by the botanist Antonio José de Cavanilles. However, large-scale production and commercialization took place from the 1940s onwards with the boom in trade.

The Protected Designation of Origin “Alcachofa de Benicarló” was approved on 18 September 1998. The Benicarló artichoke is unique, and differs from the rest in its flat, compact shape and its characteristic dimple.

Every year during the month of January, Benicarló celebrates the Artichoke Festival. These are gastronomic days where the restaurants of Benicarló and the region cook dishes in which the artichoke is the main ingredient. From 10 to 26 January the “pinxo” days are held, in which bars and restaurants compete for one of the two prizes: a signature “pinxo” or a traditional “pinxo”. This year the winners are:

“Pinxo” of author:

  • Mar Blava by Vericat
  • My Lord
  • Fisherman’s Home
  • Traditional Pinxo
  • The montaditos
  • Pollastre d’Or
  • Dolce Vita

Every year, the level of the pinxos is increasing, some more traditional and others more innovative, but it is worth trying them all to discover and be surprised by the different combinations of flavours and textures that can be made with the Benicarló artichoke. Moreover, all the pinxos have a closed price of 2.5 euros.

From 26th January to 1st March, the gastronomic days are celebrated in which each restaurant offers a menu around the Benicarló artichoke. The menus have several starters, a main course and dessert and the price varies between 24 and 40 euros, with the drink included in some cases.

Here is the agenda of activities for this week, designed by gastronomic sybarites and sportsmen:

From 27th January to 2nd February the VIII Padel Carxofa Tournament will take place in Benicarló organized by Padel Indoor Benicarló. Inscriptions in padelindoorbenicarlo.com or in 664 577 489.

On 27, 28 and 29 January, from 9 to 13.30h, the “I Fòrum Carxofa Innova Benicarló” begins, consisting of several gastronomic contests on Artichoke, Gin Tonic and cocktails applied to the Benicarló PDO Artichoke. The contests will be held in the Magatzem del Mar.

The month of February begins with the V Absolute Artichoke Chess Tournament in Benicarló organized by the Benicarló Chess Club and which will take place at its headquarters: C/ Cristo del mar, 106. The tournament will start on February 1st at 4 pm.

On February 2 it is the turn of the runners, because at 10 am they have an appointment in the Avenida Cataluña where the XXXI edition of the Benicarló Artichoke Half Marathon – Peñíscola will begin. A 21 km route that will start in Benicarló, will continue along the Peñíscola promenade until reaching the Castle to return to Benicarló.

You can sign up until January 31st here!

During the days, there are several stands with information about the artichoke and its protected designation of origin, as well as boxes available for sale to the public.

This weekend has been full of activities related to the artichoke that we want to share with you:

Saturday, January 25th, gastronomy, local products, art and traditional Valencian culture.

At 10h, the 5th fair of gastronomic and local products started until 21h. From 11.30h, the fair was enlivened by a concert of Valencian music by Oscar Birtz and Vera Green, also held on Sunday from 10 to 14h. The fair has more than 40 gastronomic and local producers of all kinds. From local producers to producers adhering to the Taste of Castellón Route, as well as the Ebro Delta.

Also, at 10h began an agro-touristic experience that consisted of a guided tour of the garden of Benicarlanda in which the cultivation of artichokes, their varieties, their origin, history and legends were explained. The participants also learned about its gastronomic applications, its medicinal properties and health benefits. At the end of the tour they could taste delicious traditional products made with the Benicarló PDO Artichoke.

The tour included:

  • Thematic gastronomic tour guided by a field in full production. An experience of agro-tourism in which you become a farmer for a morning participating in its harvest!
  • Guided visit to the hermitage of Sant Gregori.
  • Aperitif with traditional products made with the artichoke DOP Benicarló and local products.
  • Bag commemorating the experience.
  • Artichokes harvested by yourself.
  • Civil Responsibility Insurance to have everything under control.

Prices:

7,00 euro/pax adult
3.00/pax minor up to 12 years
Free for accompanied children under 7 years of age

Starting point: Hermitage of Sant Gregori in Benicarló

Duration of the tour: 1.5-2 hours

More information here.

Visit to the Iberian Village “Puig de la Nau” (10h). A settlement that had its origin during the last moments of the Bronze Age, although practically all the architectural structures that can be seen during the visit belong to the Iberian Culture, one of those that in Antiquity were developed on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

A theatrical visit that consisted in the staging of the day-to-day life of the inhabitants of the site where you could have a dialogue with the painter, the weaver, the merchants, the bakers and even the guards or the priestesses who lived in the village. The visit had a cost as a donation of 2 euros (for children under 10 years the visit was free), which will revert to the safeguarding of our heritage. Departures from Mucbe.

The lovers of the regional dances from 10 to 13h, enjoyed a workshop of traditional Valencian dances.

From 19h, the traditional “Torrada popular de carxofes DOP Benicarló. In the Plaza Constitución, right in the centre of Benicarló, several barbecues were set up to roast more than 3,000 kilos of artichokes at a popular price of 3 euros per portion.

At 23.00h the popular dance was performed by the Agora orchestra.

These were the most outstanding activities of Sunday 26th January:

V gastronomic products and proximity fair from 10h to 14h.

At 10.30h, “We draw the Benicarló Artichoke Festival”. A concentration of urban drawing with the Urban Sketchers Maestrat.

At 11.30h, the 27th Benicarló Artichoke Gastronomy Demonstration was inaugurated by the restaurants of the Benicarló Restaurants Association.

At 12h, the gastronomic tasting organised by the Benicarló restaurateurs in collaboration with Cervezas San Miguel began.

Finally, at 5pm there was a dramatised visit to the historic centre on “El vi de Carlon”. Wine produced in Benicarló and part of the Baix Maestrat whose production began in the Middle Ages and which became the most consumed wine in Europe. Historians claim that Christopher Columbus transported it in his ships to America, where it became very popular. This wine set the tone for Benicarló’s economic and social development during the 18th and 19th centuries. A group of producers began their recovery project in 2012 and in January 2019 the Renaixença 2018 was bottled. The visit was organized by the company Global Arts, normally has limited places with prior registration (tel. 964 46 04 48). It started in front of the Benicarló Town Hall and cost 2 euros per person.

Also, this weekend the “Carxofa d’Or 2020” award was given to Mikel López Iturriaga, gastronomic journalist and creator of the website “El Comidista”. Mikel confessed his predilection for the Benicarlanda vegetable, the only one in the province with a protected designation of origin.

The months of January and February are ideal for enjoying the gastronomy and culture of the Baix Maestrat!

Live the month of the artichoke in Tamarindos Peñíscola!

 


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