The globe artichoke
(Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus)
is a variety of a species of thistle. It is at is eating prime as an immature flower. The largest globe is on top of the plant and the smaller ones grow beneath.
The edible matter are buds that form within the flower heads before the flowers come into bloom about 6 months after planting. The buds go away or change to a coarse, barely edible form when the flower blooms.
The uncultivated or wild variety of the species is called a cardoon.
It is a perennial plant native to the Mediterranean region.
Where did the Artichokes originate?
Artichokes are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables. Historians generally agree that artichokes started somewhere in the Mediterranean some say it was sicily and some have said that they originated on in Northern Africa. The Artichoke is actually an improved version of the Cardoon which is smaller and more prickly. The Cardoon buds were eaten but their stems were often more desirable. . They began cultivating them as early as the 5th century BC. They traveled up through Italy. The Dutch introduced them to England. The French brought them to Louisiana and Italian immigrants brought them to California. (courtesy of Ocean Mist Farms)
How did the artichoke get it's name?
As with many foods that have endured for centuries the name of the Artichoke has evolved from several words.
The word choke is not a botanical term it is thought to have evolved in a folk sort of way from an Italian word that sounds like choke.
This is from my favorite word origin site,
.....Artichoke comes from the 1530s, from articiocco , Northern Italian variant of Italian arcicioffo , from Old Spanish alcarchofa , from Arabic al-hursufa "artichoke." The Northern Italian variation probably is from influence of ciocco meaning "stump." The plant looks something like a stump and the "arti - was a version of our prefix "arch," meaning "high" (and the artichoke plant does have a big stumpy mass up high). This is presumed by Sam Dean on the Bon Appetit site.
"Folk etymology" has twisted the word in English; the ending is probably influenced by choke , and early forms of the word in English include archecokk, hortichock, artychough, hartichoake . The plant was known in Italy by 1450s, brought to Florence from Naples in 1466, and introduced in England in the reign of Henry VIII. French artichaut (16c.), German Artischocke (16c.) both are also from Italian.
Another fun fact about the name of the artichoke is it's Genus name
According to an ancient Agean (Greek) legend there was once a woman of incredible beauty ... “Zeus grew bored with the women on Mount Olympus and decided to go slumming on Earth. He met a sexy Greek girl named Cynara, but she grew tired of him and left. So Zeus hurled a lightning bolt at Cynara and turned her into an artichoke.” Fun Flower Facts
"The Artichoke Goddess" a Mural in Castroville, CA. I am not sure I really understand the mural but am looking for any ideas.
What kind of a plant is an Artichoke?
As I mentioned in the begriming the artichoke is a member of the thistle family. The leaves of the artichoke have thorns on them so watch out! These leaf part of the bud or globe is called a bract in botanical terms and is different than a leaf or petal .
Where how do they Grow? Artichokes are grown in southern Europe, North Africa, in certain countries of South America, and in the United States with almost all the crop coming from Monterey county California.
The Artichoke takes about 6 months for the buds to be ready to eat. They can be harvested as many as 30 times in a season. The peak season for artichokes is Spring but they can be harvested through the summer months and another peak season in early autumn.
When you drive into Castroville you see a sign that says Artichoke capital of the world. Back early in 1920's landowner Andrew Molera was approached by Italian immigrants to grow artichokes. The idea was encouraging because they were very expensive and looked like he could get better money than his current crop sugar beets. The loamy, well drained soil, and cool foggy summers was a good match for this crop.
Castroville is now home to two major packers and the country's only artichoke processing plant, grows 75 percent of the state's artichokes
Artichoke plant in the wild
Ocean Mist Farms' Artichokes Featured on Food Tech
(July 1888 − February 20, 1938)
Ciro "The Artichoke King" Terranova was a New York City gangster and one time underboss of the Morello crime family.
Ciro earned his nickname, "the Artichoke King", by purchasing artichokes at $6.00 a crate from California, then selling them in New York at a 30-40% profit. Ciro's violent reputation preceded him, frightening vegetable sellers into buying them. Even the fields back in California were hacked down in the middle of the night to scare bring fear to those farmers and distributors that didn't co operate.
These "artichoke wars" led Mayor Fiorello La Guardia one of New York's famous Mayors and who they named the airport after was a strong leader against the Mafia. He took action and appeared at The Bronx Terminal Market to institute a city-wide ban on the sale, display, and possession of artichokes,
In his words: "A racketeer in artichokes is no different than a racketeer in slot machines."
. When prices went down, the ban was lifted In 1936,
Marylin Monroe Artichoke Queen
Crowned Artichoke Queen.
In 1948 Marylin Monroe probably seeking any notoriety back them before she was a starlet was the official Artichoke queen for the festival that still is celebrated today.