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.