Friday, August 20, 2010

Artichokes



I feel very ambivalent about our artichoke plants. Almost as ambivalent as my feelings about our gooseberries, now successfully overcome thanks to this delicious jelly.

The problem with the gooseberries was that they tasted awful and stabbed me with their wicked thorns every time I got near. The problem with the artichokes is they take up an enormous amount of space for relatively little food pay-off.

When we came to Mucky Boots we inherited a bed of about twenty mature plants, each needing six to eight square feet and producing (if we're lucky) two or three artichokes. I confess I'm something of a neophyte, so beyond steaming the artichoke, pulling off the leaves and dipping them in aioli or garlic butter, I wasn't quite sure what to do with them. Our neighbour Nick is a chef, so once I asked him to show me how to take an artichoke in its entirety to an artichoke heart. We began with a nice big artichoke and ended up with a single heart about an inch-and-a-half in diameter. Six or eight square feet of garden space for an inch-and-a-half artichoke heart. In my head, it just didn't add up.

But all that math just went out the window. Because this morning, on a day that feels like the start of fall with hazy sunlight filtering through the trees and the air crisp and cool, the unharvested and now flowering artichokes are looking magical.




8 comments:

Natalie said...

Those look amazing. I don't think I have ever seen one blooming... fully opening up. They are gorgeous. I love artichokes, and I was thinking *what else could you ask for?* I love them steamed and naked, but unfortunately I recently discovered dipping them in butter too! Mercy!

Doc said...

The flower holds its beauty as a dried flower, I have one in my office from last year.

Paula said...

I love artichokes. If you decide some winter that you want to pull them up, send the roots to me!

I grew up in San Jose, California, which is relatively close (relatively) to the Castro Valley, which is near the coast, and which is the artichoke El Dorado of California. When I was a kid, growing up with seven brothers and sisters, my dad would bring home a big paper bag of artichokes when he could find them for a nickel a piece. Can you imagine? A nickel! Which is why I was in utter shock when I saw them for five bucks at the grocery store in Florida. At the time, I chalked it up to distance, but on this coast, you're lucky if you can find them for $2.50 piece. I guess the reason is that people have discovered what a lovely and subtle delicacy they are.

I like mine boiled with a couple of cloves of garlic, drained and served with a sauce I make of mayo, lemon juice, as much crushed garlic as will fit on the end of a knife (not much, in other words), and finely minced Moroccan mint.

All this talk of artichokes has me decided to see if I can save the three buds out there I was going to let flower...mmm!

Flartus said...

That's amazing--I had no idea! I suppose they're related to thistles?

I'm glad I know how much room they take up, because I will not be surprised if Miss Chef gets it into her head one day to grow some around here. Now I can point her to your post and say, "See, now you know what they're like. Let's go to the grocery store!"

Paula said...

They are a thistle, and I'm too late- they're starting to flower :^(

~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

I'd keep your chickens away from them, they look like hungry and like they might gobble one up! But they are lovely!!! ;-))

amothersheartinwords said...

what a gorgeous plant! i love the artichoke - with it comes memories of my dad and I eating them together.

now, let's talk about the snake gourd plant that took over my garden....sheesh - and I can't EAT the snake gourd

Toni aka irishlas said...

I've never seen an artichoke plant. And you know what else? I've never eaten one either.

The flowers are beautiful, but, still not enough for me to grow or eat them. I guess it's some type of mental block about artichokes...haha

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