Part of the “thistle” plant family, artichokes are believed to have originated in North Africa and Sicily where they still grow in the wild. The most commonly recognized green variety was, until recently, imported into Canada from California. Research at the University of Guelph’s Simcoe Station under the guidance of Evan Elford has determined that the annual Globe artichoke (also known as the French artichoke) is a variety that can easily flourish in Ontario. They are beautiful plants and aside from their culinary uses they make striking ornamentals for any flower garden.
While many dishes call for canned or pickled artichokes, Italian/Greek/Spanish cuisines rely on fresh artichokes. Due to the plant’s appearance, many consumers are unaware of how to prepare the vegetable which can lead to ambivalence about buying.
To prepare a fresh artichoke trim the top of each leaf, removing the sharp barb. Steam or boil them in salted water till tender. Serve the entire artichoke with a bit of melted butter and lemon so that each diner can enjoy the fleshy bottom part of each leaf. The delicious heart is the prize at the centre.
Growers should keep in mind that artichokes plants thrive in temperatures between 12 and 24 degrees.
With files from Simcoe Research Station publication “New Crops, Old Challenges: Tips and tricks for managing new crops!” and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.