Portrait of an Artichoke


Portrait of an Artichoke
  • Posted October 8, 2014

Origins

Artichokes are one of the rare plants from which we consume only the unopened flower bud. Along with one of the others — capers — it originates in the arid hills of the Mediterranean basin, a place where freezing temperatures are rare and the environment is so dry that it is difficult to wring more than a few drops of water from the air in summer.

Personality

Botanically speaking, artichokes are an enormous thistle, plants known for their tough and thorny character. But the artichoke is a thistle of many layers — peel them back and you will find the soft, tender heart, a vegetable with a strange mix of sweet and bitter flavors.

Earthly Delights

Though esteemed for their edible buds, artichokes are aesthetically rewarding, as well. They seem almost prehistoric in form, with a clump of warty grey-green leaves 4 feet long splaying out from a single base. Leave the buds to open on the plant and they surprise you with a radiant indigo light streaming from the filamentous florets.

Curiosities

Castroville, California, a small town in Salinas Valley known as the Artichoke Capital of the World, hosts a festival in honor of the vegetable each summer. In 1947, a woman named Norma Jean - who later became known as Marilyn Monroe - was crowned Castroville's first Artichoke Queen.

Related Pages

Fresh Steamed Artichokes

Fresh Steamed Artichokes

Basic but tasty recipe for artichokes, making the leaves tender and easy to eat.

View Page »

Artichoke 'Green Globe' (Cynara scolymus)

Artichoke 'Green Globe' (Cynara scolymus)

Artichokes are native to the Mediterranean region and were originally prized as a delicacy reserved for the nobility. The part of the artichoke that is actually eaten is its flower buds. The tender heart of the bud is delicious for use in a variety of recipes, steamed, or pickled.…

View Page »

Brian Barth
About the Author

After 15 years as a professional landscape designer and horticulturalist, Brian Barth embarked on a second career to share his passion—and the knowledge he's accrued—through writing. His love of plants is all-encompassing, but he has a particular soft spot for culinary crops.


Post A Comment

Portrait of an Artichoke