CARDO GOBBO OF NICE MONFERRATO

When someone mentions the hunchback thistle of Nizza Monferrato, most people shrug. In fact, it is not one of the best known food products and even in Piedmont few people know what this thistle is. In the rest of Italy the situation is worse: even today few people know of the existence of a product such as Nizza Monferrato hunchback thistle. In fact, it is becoming increasingly rare on the markets and finding it, even in Piedmont, is by no means as simple as it might initially seem. It is a product that is grown in fairly small quantities and which risks disappearing … or rather: it would risk appearing if they did not support it. But what is it about? And why is this type of thistle so important?
The Nizza Monferrato hunchback thistle was born in the province of Asti, between Nizza Monferrato and the neighboring municipalities. The seeds are sown in spring and collected in a period ranging from October to February. They are called “gobbi” because of the cardaroli (we will better explain the reason behind this name later) and they are mostly vegetables. They can be harvested as early as September, when they reach a considerable height and become luxuriant, but it is preferable to let them mature a little more. They are then folded and covered with earth, so that they can overcome the cold temperatures typical of winter. Precisely for this reason the plant bends slightly: it seeks the light and pushes itself upwards. Hence its hump shape. However, in some parts of Piedmont the thistle is “dressed” with heavy sheets of paper tied around the vegetable. In this way the usual hump is lost and the vegetable takes on a more upright, straight shape. Due to the lack of light and the attempt to bend over to look for it, the thistles become very white and over time take on a particularly tender and delicate taste on the palate. Generally, it only takes a month for the thistle to take on its hump shape, but before bringing this vegetable to the table and preparing it, remember to remove the outer leaves and ribs, keeping the heart of the plant intact. The nice thing about humpback thistles is that they can be eaten immediately, without any cooking and to the taste they appear sweet and crunchy. Obviously, like all other thistles, this one can also be eaten cooked, but it is advisable not to cook it because it could lose some of its many nutrients. A good idea is to eat it raw and fresh, immediately after taking it from the ground. At best, what you could do is rinse the thistles with some fresh water before serving them to the table. As a valid accompaniment, a little bagna cauda could be used, which over time has become a traditional and very famous dish of Piedmont cuisine. Finally, it should be remembered that, if desired, thistles of this type can also be eaten fried or stuffed (the filling can be quite variable, but generally it is based on meat). Nor should we forget the possibility of adding thistle to typical Piedmont soups.

IL CARDO GOBBO: A VEGETABLE RICH IN NUTRITIONAL SUBSTANCES

First of all, these are very low-calorie vegetables, so much so that 100 grams of hunchback thistle includes about 22 calories. These foods are protein-deficient (like most vegetables) and include about 4 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams of thistle. The real strong point of these thistles is however represented by the high quantity of vitamin C (so much so that they are vegetables recommended for those who suffer from deficiency) and vitamin B6. Moreover, it is one of the few plants that can also offer an excellent supply of phenols, sodium, potassium, copper, magnesium and more. All this makes the hunchback thistle not only a food with a great taste, but also an extremely healthy food.