of delicate heart
in its battle-dress, builds
its minimal cupola;
in its scallop of
- Pablo Neruda, “Ode to an Artichoke”
Translated by Jodey Bateman
The artichoke is a flower - a flower you can eat. It is technically a thistle in the sunflower family. Seemingly uninviting with its prickles, it’s also beautiful in a vase. Worth its weight in folklore, the artichoke often evokes strong opinions.
Catherine de Medici brought it from her native Italy to France when she married King Henry II and Marilyn Monroe was California’s first Artichoke Queen in 1947. But the artichoke isn't just for royalty; it can be easily prepared for any family's table.
Simply rinse, trim the stem to desired length, level the top by cutting off an inch or so, and trim any thorns off the leaves with scissors. Rub with lemon to maintain green color. Place in a steamer basket and steam for about 30 minutes or until outer leaves loosen.
To prepare a la Romana, cut, trim, and the scrape out the inner fuzzy “choke” from center and fill with a tablespoon mixture of crushed mint and minced garlic. Place upside down in 3 inches of water with lemon juice and splash olive oil. Simmer until easily pierced by a fork.
This vegetable is an invitation to take time - savor it one leaf at a time. Place a cooked artichoke in the middle of a plate, peel a leaf, and uncover layers of conversation until you get to the heart of the matter. The leaves are meatier and sweeter towards the center. Scoop the choke away and eat the heart with a spoon. Or divide the heart among your tablemates, dip in mayonnaise, aioli, or butter for a taste sensation.
All U.S. artichokes are grown in California. The Mediterranean climate allows it to thrive in Castroville, Monterey County, the Artichoke Center of the World. The warm days and coastal fog keep the plants happy. They grow year round but are at their peak in spring and fall.
To store at home, don’t wash but sprinkle with a little water and store in an airtight plastic bag. They should remain fresh for a week.
We hope you enjoy one of California’s jewels - the artichoke.