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Grab a Bunch of Gobbi

market

They should be soft. They will have a slightly bitter taste.

Grab what?

They look like celery stalks. Except much bigger. Except for the leaves that sprout along the edges.  And really except for the spines along those same edges that make gobbi look more like a medieval weapon of war than a food.

In Italian they are cardone. In British English, cardoon. In American English, what’s-them-things. They have been on the menu in Mediterranean countries for quite a while.  In 300 BC, Greek naturalist Theophrastus referred to them as κάκτος (Latin: cactus). What fool looked at a thorny thing growing by the side of the road and said, Hey, shouldn’t we be eating that?  A happy fool whom we owe a debt of gratitude.

I was introduced to them years ago at my in-laws’ table, at or around Christmas time.  Every year after we got married, the search began a few weeks before the holiday dinner. My wife and I went from market to market looking for gobbi and for baby artichokes. At one time you might very well come home empty-handed, in which case the disappointment was palpable. How could you have Christmas dinner without gobbi (or baby artichokes)?

Here’s what we do with them.  If you cook gobbi and do something different, I’d love to hear about it.

Cut the bunch at the base of the stalks, peel away the leaves and spines along the edges of the stalks, then wash and chop them.

Blanch them for 15-20 minutes. During the blanch, gently saute 2-3 cloves of diced garlic in olive oil in a wide flat frying pan that you can cover.

Drain the blanched gobbi and add them to your garlic saute. Add 3-4 tablespoons of tomato puree, salt and pepper, and cook on medium heat for 30-40 minutes. You may need to add a little water to prevent stickage.

They should be soft. They will have a slightly bitter taste.

These days in the Italian markets around Detroit, in the late fall, gobbi hunts are usually successful.  To get to Detroit gobbi travel all the way from Castroville, California.

Godspeed, gobbi.

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