The Dope on the Artichoke

The Missal on the Thistle

Boom, boom, boom, the steady pounding of the crashing surf against the jagged cliffs, a vibrant sun reflecting off ocean swells, and a cerulean sky were an homage to the glorious wildness of the California coastline.

Annie and LJ were driving picturesque Highway 1 to Castroville to visit Victor and Lynda on their farm.

She looked through the window, “I see the surfers riding the big waves. What a perfect day to be out there. I am so glad we are going to the farm. I have been in the mood for artichokes for a while. I understand V & L have a big crop this year.”

LJ smiled, “that’s what Victor said. So, what is the missal on the thistle? I understand there are several varieties, and I am only familiar with the big round heavy ones with green or purple leaves we see in the grocery stores.”

Annie shook her head at LJ’s slang, “Well, first let’s establish the Chinese and Jerusalem variety are not true artichokes because they are roots. Artichokes are an edible flower bud before it blooms. The leaves that make up the head of the choke are also partially edible. There are eighteen types of this ancient member of the thistle family. Historically, North African Moors are considered the first cultivators. From that part of the world, artichokes were taken to Italy, where they flourished and spread throughout the Mediterranean. Peeling off the leaves to get at their heart takes work, but their taste and nutritional value make the effort worth it. The average size is only 64 calories. They are high in fiber and protein, are antioxidant-rich, and exceptionally high in folate (converts carbs into energy), vitamins C and K, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron.

Globe’s, as you described, are the most common and are generally available year-round. They have a good amount of meat at the base of their petals, and their hearts and bottom have a creamy, buttery taste. I like them too, but I really enjoy Big Heart artichokes. They weigh over a pound which gives you a lot of deliciousness, and they are perfect for stuffing. Siena artichokes have wine-red leaves that are smaller and have an elongated appearance. Their hearts are soft enough to eat raw.

As they pulled into the Jackson’s farm, Lynda was in front and greeted them with a wave. “Hello, you two! Victor and I are so happy to see you. He’s putting the final touches on lunch.”

They could smell garlic cooking as they walked towards the patio.

Victor flipped an artichoke half on the grill,” Your timing is perfect. Have a seat cause these chokes are ready to eat.” He brought a platter of sizzling Grilled Garlic Artichokes and the remaining garlic dip to the table and passed them around.

LJ held the platter for Annie, and Lynda then helped himself, added garlic dip on his plate, and dug in. “Victor, these artichokes are hitting the spot. Are these Omaha’s?

Victor nodded, “yes, they are great for grilling because they are dense, so you get a lot of meat to enjoy. Also, they tend to be less bitter than other varieties, so grilling enhances their sweetness.”

Lynda passed a platter of grilled oysters, “It was a toss-up between the Omaha’s or the Baby Anzio’s. Those tiny red beauties are only about two inches in diameter when fully grown. Because they are small enough to eat whole, they have gained in popularity, and now we cannot keep them, but we did save a bag for you. People love them for how well they pick up the savory flavors they are cooked in combined with their own nutty taste.”

“I am in love with this meal, said Annie. “What can you tell us about Castel artichokes?’

Victor handed her a glass of wine, “Their season is just starting, and we are expecting a robust crop. Castel’s have a nice light green round compact shape, a tender, succulent heart, and wide short leaves. They are delicious steamed.”

LJ sat back with his glass of wine, “Can you imagine the first person who decided to eat a big flower bud with prickly petals, had to endlessly peel it, dig out the fuzzy part before finally getting to its edible heart? Yet, they persisted! Genius, pure genius.”

Annie and LJ are a fictional couple. Their storyline promotes healthy eating and earth-friendly practices.

Andrea Breaux is the Founder of Healthy Healing Eats. She writes about food-as-medicine and earth-friendly lifestyle practices. Find her weekly blog, recipes, and products at healthyhealingeats.com.

Andrea started Healthyhealingeats.com based on her goal to inspire a shift in consciousness that recognizes food-as-medicine and the core of good health.

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