Bob gets to the heart of this topic

Bob gets to the heart of this topic
It all started at a grocery checkout counter where Phyllis went to pay for an odd-looking vegetable seldom handled by the boxboy who was sacking our purchases.

"What's this thing?" he asked in sheer innocence.

"Why that is a globe artichoke," Phyllis responded. "Haven't you seen one before?"


"Naw. We mostly get normal stuff here, like bread, milk, lettuce and identifiable canned goods."

"We eat it; it's a delicacy," she replied. "We peel off the leaves, dip them into melted butter, and … mmmmm … ambrosia!"

She didn't tell him about the thorns which you get down to after the leaves are gone. After all, the global artichoke is really a thistle, and that part of the plant – the heart – is the best for eating it.

The "heart" is what the true gourmets are after, not the inedible "choke," as the thistles are known.

Actually, the artichoke was developed by the Muslim world, and was first cultivated in Italy. The Dutch introduced artichokes in England, and French immigrants brought them to Louisiana and early Spanish settlers started growing them in California.

Today the warm areas of California are the most reliable commercial artichoke regions.

The University of California at Davis has issued publications on the commercial growing of the plant. But Oregon State University at Corvallis has through its bulletins indicated how far north propagation has come.

As a matter of fact, Castroville, CA in Monterey County, which produces about 80 percent of the U.S. crop, is known as the Artichoke Capital of the World.

If somehow the product – not to be confused with the Jerusalem artichoke – could eliminate the problems of marketing and hand-labor involved with the plant, another agricultural crop could be developed almost anywhere in the United States.

It has medical benefits, is a deodorant, a breath freshener and can be used in making herbal tea and is the primary flavoring for the Italian liquor, Cynar.

However, you'd first have to do away with grocery workers who ask: "What's that?!"

© 2008 Robert F. Karolevitz

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