Globe artichokes are a perennial vegetable in the thistle group of the sunflower family. An artichoke plant can cover about six feet in diameter and grow three to four feet tall, and the “vegetable” part that we eat is actually the plant’s flower bud. Everyone enjoys boiling or steaming these beauties and enjoying the leaves with butter or aioli, but of course the heart is the part everyone really wants – delicious on its own or marinated and served on a plate of antipasti. At The Kitchen, we have been known to serve ours lightly sautéed alongside a fresh fish with Meyer lemon and Parmesan.
Artichokes are the quintessential California springtime crop. Originally native to the Mediterranean, artichokes have records of use as food dating as far back as the ancient Greeks and Romans. They have been cultivated in France, Greece, Italy and Spain in more modern times and were brought to the US in the 19th century – to Louisiana by the French and to California by the Spanish.
California now grows nearly 100% of the US crop, with 80 % of that crop coming from Monterey County, where Castroville calls itself the “Artichoke Capital of the World” and holds its annual Castroville Artichoke Festival. At The Kitchen, we often source our artichokes from Contreras Ranch out of Half Moon Bay. They can be found every week at the Sunday Central Farmers market in Downtown Sacramento and also carry Brussels sprouts and farm fresh eggs, among other top quality goods.