The Evolution of an Artichoke. Globe Artichokes (Cyanara cardunculus)
Healdsburg, Dry Creek Valley Vineyards:
These artichokes are a type of perennial thistle that originated around the Mediterranean Sea, possibly in southern Europe or in Morocco. The typical purple flowers develop from a green bud that is edible when small—-people eat the green bracts and the inner heart, but usually not the “choke” or beard, which is the mass of immature flowerets in the center.
There’s evidence that the Greeks and the Romans used artichokes and they seem to have spread from Naples to northern Italy, and from there to Europe. It is said that Catherine de Medici introduced them to France in the 16th century and that she liked these chokes so much that she often over-indulged to the point of fainting!
Even today, the main cultivation of artichokes is around the Mediterranean. In the USA, almost 100% of the local crop comes from California, with Castroville (near Monterey) as the center. But, we were lucky enough a few weeks ago to see them growing in Mendocino County and upper Sonoma Country. At first, we saw them growing wild and thought they were “just” large thistle plants (as in the kind that Eeyore eats in the famous Winnie-the-Pooh books). But then at Quivira Winery we found an amazing kitchen garden (as well as wonderful vineyards and vines) that featured, among many other vegetables and herbs, globe artichokes. The plants were in a variety of states of maturity—-hence these pictures of the “Development of the Artichoke”.
Do you like to eat artichokes? How do you prepare them?