Artichoke (also known as green or French artichoke) is actually a bud of a flower cut off before the flower begins to bloom. It’s a staple of American high end cuisine, but in recent years it has become more widespread with the growth of foody culture.
The plant is first mentioned in ancient Greece and there are records showing that its qualities were known in the Renaissance. It was brought into the US rather late, somewhere in the 19th century where they were grown by French settlers in Louisiana and by Spanish immigrants in California.
Artichokes are a party of a daisy family.
- March 16th is National Artichoke Heart Day.
- Until the 16th century, women were prohibited from eating them in many countries because they were still considered to have aphrodisiac properties.
- In 1947 Marilyn Monroe, then still going by her given name Norma Jean, was crowned Castroville’s first Artichoke Queen.
Artichoke Buying Guide
Start by picking a few artichokes up to compare their weight. Go for the ones that feel heavy and solid, that means they are younger. The leaves of an artichoke should be thick and closed tightly. It should also be deep green. You could guess how tender the vegetable will be by how small it is. The smaller the better.
On the other hand, larger artichokes will have larger hearts and that is the sweetest part of the artichoke. Therefore, it’s a choice and a balance between tender and sweet. It’s something you learn over time.
Artichoke Production & Farming in Texas
For a long time, artichokes weren’t grown anywhere but in California since they were brought there from Spain and since the climate is favorable. Now there are Texan artichokes and the attempts to make a local production going are relatively successful.
They are planted in the fall and winter (from October to January) and they begin to rapidly increase in size in spring. The soil needs to be well drained and with a lot of mulch. The main harvest takes place in April and May. Six to nine buds could be harvested from one plant.
Several varieties could be grown in Texas including:
- Green Globe (standard variety)
- Imperial Star (less vigorous than Green Globe)
- Emerald Grand
- Purple Sicilian (purple globe)
At this point, about 10 percent of US artichokes come from Texas while others are still from California.
What makes it different and more challenging than it is in California is that the artichokes that are planted in the winter need to be held in greenhouses beforehand. It takes up to six to eight weeks to prepare the plants for the next stage of planting.
There are 28 different pesticides that are used on artichokes in the US, but they all score low on the residue on the finished commodity (meaning as it’s presented to the consumer).
It’s unknown where the plant comes from originally but it can be found in both the Mediterranean and the Middle East, as early as the ancient times. From there it was spread throughout Europe and beyond by Dutch colonist at first and then by the English and the Spanish.
When it comes to the US, artichokes are grown only in the heart of Texas due to the climate that’s not suitable to them elsewhere. If the temperatures go higher than 85 degrees, the artichokes won’t make it through the season.
Expect when they are packed in a specialty pack artichokes are put into standard waxed cartons according to size. The sizes range from 18 jumbo to a carton, all the way to petite 72’s to a carton. The packed artichokes are then put into large machine called a hydro vacuum tube.
This removes the cold from artichoke quickly and they are then rinsed with cold water. The whole process takes about an hour and it keeps the artichokes fresh.
Artichokes can’t be eaten raw and they shouldn’t be boiled during the prepping. Instead what you should do is to take off the outer leaves one by one and then coat the edible tip in any kind of dipping you may prefer.
The heart of the artichoke is its most praised portion and it’s the only portion you’ll probably get served in the restaurant. There are countless options available as it comes to cooking them. The heart can be cooked or roasted depending on what is it a side to and are you using them fresh or jarred.
It’s especially interesting to mix them up with yogurts and cheeses because the two complement each other and bring out the best of both worlds.
Artichokes can be stored in a bag and put into a refrigerator without having to worry about them. It’s however useful to sprinkle them with water before placing them in the bag. You should try to use them as quickly after they were purchased. They are best used a few days after that. Make sure you put them in the coldest part of the fridge.
Preparing the artichokes for cooking is the most time consuming part and it may even take longer than the cooking itself. Start by rinsing them in cold water to get rid of the dirt that may remain between the leaves. Cut the stem of the artichoke so that it can stand on its own, using a sharp knife.
Put the artichoke in hot water so that it’s steamed and not boiled because that’s the way to prepare them for most dishes. Use salted water with some lemon in it and steamed it for about 30 minutes so that it’s tender enough.
Now the artichoke is ready for the recipe you have in mind regardless of what it is.
Artichoke contains bitter principles, cynarin, and sesquiterpene-lactones. Those are the nutrients that inhibit the creation of cholesterol and reduce the amount of cholesterol already produced.
Fresh artichoke is an excellent source of vitamin, folic acid; provides about 68 µg per 100 g (17% of recommended daily allowance). These are important nutrients to take in during a pregnancy because they are shown to prevent neural tube defects in the newborn baby.
Fresh globes contain moderate amounts of the antioxidant vitamin; vitamin-C (Provides about 20% of recommended levels per 100 g). Regular consumption of these is important for developing a resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body.
They are vegetable sources for Vitamin-K; provide about 12% of DRI. Vitamin-K plays a vital role in bone health through promoting osteotropic (bone formation) activity. Adequate Vitamin-K levels in the diet help limiting neuronal damage in the brain.
Artichokes are rich in B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, and pantothenic acid that are essential for optimum cellular metabolic functions.
They are also a source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus.
When Are Artichoke in Season in Texas?
To find out when Artichoke are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.