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Although some claim it may well take 80 days to take a world-wide trip, for this particular globe, one need only proceed to their nearest garden plot.
The globe artichoke, Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus (also known as green or French artichoke) has a most incredible, well, global, history. It was first noted by the Greek philosopher and naturalist, Theophrastus, 371-287 B.C. How amazing is that?
Its story continues. Pedanius Dioscorides (40-90 A.D.), a Greek physician, noted artichokes about the time of Christ. Ancient Greeks and Romans considered them delicacies and aphrodisiacs, and they were said to secure the birth of boys. They were also cultivated around 800 A.D. by North African Moors.
The artichoke, a thistle member of the aster family (Asteraceae), also has its own legend that might be the source for its scientific name.
As told long, long, ago, when the Greek god Zeus saw a beautiful young mortal called Cynara, he transformed her into a goddess. However, when Zeus discovered that a homesick Cynara had snuck away to her mortal world, he was so angry that he turned her into an artichoke. Hence, Cynara cardunculus, var. scolymus.
It’s also thought the Saracens introduced artichokes to Italy. This may explain how “al-qarshuf”, Arabic for thistle, became “articiocco”, and “articoclos”, (meaning pine cone), in Italian. Eventually it became “artichoke” in English.
They were cultivated in France in the mid-1500s and later appeared in print in Martha Washington’s 18th-century Booke of Cookery in the recipe “To Make Hartichoak Pie.” However, their roots didn’t touch U.S. soil until the 1800s when they arrived courtesy of Italian immigrants who, for a short period, cultivated them commercially in Louisiana.
In the early 1900’s, Andrew Molera leased his land in Salinas, California, where he encouraged sugar beet-growing Italian farmers to propagate, you guessed it, artichokes. Although that area of California is ideal, artichokes will grow in most home gardens.
This incredible perennial plant puts out a plentiful offering, whether in the landscape or vegetable garden. Even if you don’t indulge in eating its buds, its 5–6” diameter dusky-sage deeply-cut leaves gracefully arching like huge wings will illuminate your landscape.
As spring progresses, ridged stalks will shoot up nearly 4’ high to present pinecone-shaped buds (those edible “vegetables” we consume). But that’s not all. When left to develop further, buds explode into the most extraordinary brilliant violet-blue flowers. They’re truly a crowning glory to behold.
Purchase plants (getting desirable plants from seed is very unpredictable) to put out in early spring so you may dine and be dazzled by summer.
With nutrient-rich, well-drained soil in an area with afternoon shade, generous irrigation and supplemental fertilizing, your artichokes should survive and thrive, thrilling you for many years to come.
Did You Know?
- ✦ Artichokes are one of the oldest foods known to humans.
- ✦ There are more than 140 varieties of artichokes today.
- ✦ Most are cultivated in France, Italy and Spain.
- ✦ California provides nearly 100% of the U.S. commercial crop.
- ✦ 90% of those come from Castroville, CA which proclaims itself the “The Artichoke Capital of the World.”
- ✦ Only men could consume artichokes in the 16th century, since it was considered an aphrodisiac thought to enhance male sexual power and was denied to females.
- ✦ Marilyn Monroe was the first official California Artichoke Queen in 1949.
Recipe: Savory stuffed artichokes
4 artichokes, washed, leaf tips trimmed and stems removed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 oz mushrooms, chopped coarse
½ red onion, diced
1 sweet red pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic pressed
2/3 cups petite green peas (fresh or if frozen, thawed)
½ cup sliced Kalamata olives, sliced
1 ½ cups cooked brown rice, quinoa, faro, or freeka (find at Food 4 Less or Natural Grocers)
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
14 oz fresh cooked or canned red salmon (or pink)
8 oz shredded Italian blend cheese (Trader Joe’s Quatro Formaggio)
Juice and zest from one lime
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Fresh basil leaves or minced parsley
½ cup sliced toasted almonds
½ cup fresh homemade or purchased pesto
Steam artichokes in strainer of large cooking pot over low heat for 50 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool enough to handle. Press down with palm of hand to loosen leaves enough to part and remove furry choke from middle.
Heat oil in sauté pan and cook mushrooms, onion, red pepper, garlic and rosemary until limp, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and gently mix with chosen cooked grain and yogurt in large bowl. Add lime juice, sea salt and pepper to taste, cheese and salmon.
Fill cavities of artichokes with mixture and microwave them one at a time, (cover with plastic wrap or silicone cover) 2 minutes on high. Sprinkle with fresh basil leaves or parsley and sliced almonds. Serve with pesto for dipping leaves.
Makes 4 servings (may easily be halved for 2)
The Garden Shoppe
2327 Charles Ln., Medford
One Green World Nursery
They have Green Globe, Imperial Star, and Purple Italian Globe plants