The Globe Artichokes belongs to the thistle family. Both the tender ends of the leaves and the heart of the bud are edible and are best eaten on the day of purchase.
Native to the Mediterranean, the globe artichoke has been eaten since ancient Greek and Roman times. It fell from favour after the fall of the Roman empire, but later, in the 1500s, it became a gourmet item in France. At this time the artichoke was considered to be an aphrodisiac, so much so that consumption of the vegetable was limited to men. Artichokes were brought to America by the 18th Century, and were even grown by George Washington and his wife, Martha.
IDEAL GROWING CONDITIONS
Artichokes grow easily in any garden as long as they have enough space. The purple and green varieties can both grow to about 1-2 metres in height – and they take up just as much space in the garden. Plant seeds in spring or transplant suckers in summer, for artichoke heads ready in autumn. They don’t like waterlogged soil, frosts and droughts, so be very wary of the environment in which they’re planted.
HOW TO COOK
The immature flower bud is the part of the plant that is generally eaten. When this bud has emerged, the thick new bud leaves can be steamed. Just ensure you get to them as early as possible, as they’re tastier when they are younger. To get to these tender thickened leaves, the tougher outer leaves need to be removed, and the inner ‘hairy’ choke is also scooped out. The remaining part can be steamed, braised or marinated for a distinctive-tasting vegetable.