Do you remember your first artichoke? With an almost prehistoric look growing in a garden, to the untrained eye, they appear impossibly inedible. And, as a thistle that was cultivated to be eaten, they lose their deliciousness once they bloom. Did someone teach you how to prepare and eat this armored veggie? There are YouTube videos on everything now, from how to massage your cat to how to eat an artichoke. But why watch a video, if Adrien Brody has offered a private lesson?
I am actually kind of uncomfortable name-dropping from my days as an assistant in film. Omg, did you know about that time I talked to Bono on the phone, and he gave me his digits…for my boss to call him back, but still. I had to tear up the paper, for fear I’d drunk dial him.
I digress. Back to not-name-dropping and my first artichoke experience. I was doing oh-so-glamorous assistant work, 16-17 hour days working with director Keith Gordon on The Singing Detective, a film version of Dennis Potter’s acclaimed BBC series. We’d broken for lunch, and I was sitting with Adrien in the area cordoned off for meals. (I may have had a slight crush on him.) The folding chairs around us empty, we chatted over plates of food, until the caterer interrupted us with an artichoke requested and prepared especially for Brody. Oh, the life of an actor.
Giving myself away as a rube raised in the sticks, I admitted I’d never eaten an artichoke, and with great detail, he showed me how to dip each petal in the melted butter, and scrape the goodness off with your teeth, then removed the heart to share it with me. I know. Stop it, Adrien Brody.
Who knew artichokes were so dreamy? Will you plant some this spring? In mild zones, they are perennials, so choose a spot where they will grow for up to five years, keeping in mind they can spread to four feet wide, and just as tall. In zones 6 and colder, you can plant them two feet apart, as the freeze will keep them from reaching full maturity, according to Bonnie Plants website, which also recommends light, fertile, well-drained soil—sandy or loam is ideal. Artichokes produce buds in the second growing season, so if you live in colder climates where your Cynara cardunculus will only survive one season, check out Organic Gardening’s tips on vernalization – tricking them into thinking they’ve lived through one winter so they’ll produce when planted. And when you’re ready to harvest, enjoy your artichokes with a little seasoning from these Salt and Pepper Shakers.
“The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture.” ~ Thomas Jefferson, who grew over 300 varieties of more than 90 different plants.
(Photo credit: NPR – Thomas Jefferson’s Vegetable Garden)