Monday, May 21, 2012

Artichoke Season Has Arrived!

Artichokes are in full season. The globe artichoke is related to the thistle. Its leaves are edible, as is the bottom part of the flower, called the heart. Fields of this plant can be found edging up against the city of Valencia in almost every direction. The first thing is learning how to cut an artichoke, as much of the plant is inedible.

 The origin of the word "artichoke" was probably the Arabic word al-qarshuf.  Wolfgang Goethe, eighteenth and nineteenth century poet and dramatist, shunned the artichoke. In his book Travels Through Italy he says, "the peasants eat thistles," a practice he could never adopt.

During the nineteenth century, the Spanish introduced the artichoke to California while the French brought them to Louisiana. The unique vegetable was considered quite the delicacy among the French. Even today, restaurants in New Orleans, where so many people of French origin settled, regularly feature artichokes on their menus.
In contrast to the French, the British all but ignored the artichoke. This is not surprising. The English were reluctant to accept practically all new vegetables that passed their way. Today most artichokes grown worldwide are cultivated in France, Italy, and Spain, while California provides nearly 100 percent of the United States crop.

California was reintroduced to the artichoke in the early 1900's when a number of Italian immigrants settled in the northern coastal city of Half Moon Bay. After harvesting their several hundred acres of artichokes, they sent their first shipment to the East Coast in 1906.

Interest in this vegetable continued to mount in Northern California. By the 1950's artichokes became so popular in the state, they earned the status of official vegetable of Monterey County.

Castroville, California, with its population of 5,000, named itself "the Artichoke Center of the World" for its ideal climate of moist air, even temperatures, and plenty of summertime foggy days along the coast. With its two packing houses and the country's only artichoke processing plant, Castroville became the United States artichoke growing center. Every year the town celebrates the harvest during the month of May with a festival that brings many visitors for a taste of innovative artichoke creations. Marilyn Monroe, Norma Jean at the time, was crowned Castroville's first Artichoke Queen in 1948.

 Artichoke Pasta


Preparation method

  1. Pour the artichokes, with their oil into a pan and mash them down with a fork.
  2. Add the garlic, parsley and thyme and heat through for a couple of minutes and then pour over the warm pasta.
  3. Add the lemon juice and toss thoroughly.
  4. Serve in bowls topped with shavings of parmesan cheese.

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