Words by Michelle Fabio

At the annual Sagra del Carciofo Romanesco in Ladispoli (RM) from 17-19 April*, the Roman artichoke is king.

For the 59th straight year, thousands will flock to Ladispoli, just outside of Rome, to celebrate the famous Roman artichoke known for its girth (up to 15 centimetres in diameter), its intense purple colouring, its tender leaves, and oh, yes, its incredible sweet, delicious taste. Roman artichokes are often simply prepared as "Carciofi alla Giudia" (Jewish style: fried upside down in hot olive oil until browned, turned right side up until tender, and salt and pepper added) or "Carciofi alla Romana" (Roman style: braised upside down in a covered pan with water, olive oil, garlic, mint, and parsley).

The Roman artichoke dates back to Etruscan times and although 'chokes can be grown throughout Italy, the carciofo romanesco has been granted IGP status, a designation similar to the DOC designation for wines; the IGP label certifies that at least part of the production of a product is in a particular area.

The highlight of the Roman artichoke festival is undoubtedly the competition for best artichoke sculpture. Yes, you read that correctly. People craft amazing artichoke sculptures in shapes of butterflies, castles, and more, competing for the prizes, and you can see some of these sculptures in the first video below.

The next video showcases the amazing crowd that gathers to celebrate the artichokes, and the final video offers instruction (in English!) on how to prepare artichokes so you can enjoy them at home:

What is your favorite way to enjoy artichokes?

* In 2010 the event will take place from 16th april to 18 april. Stay updated with the Ladispoli Official Site.