The Weird, Wonderful Artichoke
Jon recalls driving through Castroville, CA ("Artichoke Center of the World") one spring, when he encountered the annual Castroville Artichoke Festival. "The artichoke, for such an unlikely-looking food item, is widespread and adapted among so many cultures and cuisines around the world, it's startling," he observes.
Greg waxes about the globe artichoke, which is a thistle: its influoresence, bracts, and stem all are edible as long as the budding artichoke flower-head hasn't bloomed. Steaming an artichoke turns it olive drab but Greg recommends doing so anyway, like the Croatians, the Italians, and people around the Mediterranean, where the artichoke is native. "The very tip of the leaf can stab you. Take a pair of scissors and snip it off," recommends Greg.
Steamed and served with various dips is the most common way for Americans to serve them, but Greg points out some other styles. "You can rinse the oil and vinegar from pickled artichoke hearts, sauté them in fresh olive oil with garlic and fresh herbs, very quickly, and it becomes lovely sauce for a pasta. In Rome, they separate the leaves, mix bread crumbs, garlic and herbs, and and put the mixture between the leaves."
(Broadcast: "The Food Guys," 3/8/15. Listen weekly on the radio at 11:50 a.m. Sundays, or via podcast.)