If you are looking for a reason to celebrate in 2018? How about this; It’s the seventieth anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s appointment as Artichoke Queen.
That’s right, Artichoke Queen. Marilyn was a fan, and you should be, too. After all, the edible bud of the spike-leafed perennial plant, a member in good standing of the thistle group of the sunflower family is delicious and versatile. It can be the main course, a whole meal on its own, or a flavorful addition to all kinds of light spring recipes or heartier dishes perfect for spring cold snaps.
Speaking of spring now is the prime season for domestic artichokes. Over two-thirds of them are grown around Castroville, a central California town that lies on a fertile, often fog-shrouded coastal strip a few hundred miles north of Marilyn’s other realm, Hollywood. Artichokes have been sprouting in Castroville since 1922, the year several Italian immigrant families planted the first crops of native-Italian artichokes on land that rented for about twenty-five dollars per acre. Today, the crop around Castroville occupies some six thousand acres, and artichokes are available in more places than ever before.
Artichokes are a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, and fiber. Plus, they have more antioxidants (believed to fight cancer-causing cells) than red wine or chocolate.
The leaves themselves can be eaten, but you have to steam or boil them. The outside leaves have a pointed end, so it is necessary to snip them off before cooking. The most delicious part, the part most people enjoy, is the artichoke heart.
You do not want to eat the choke but instead, take a spoon and scrape it out. You will are left with the heart, which will be either light green or white. It will quickly brown after being introduced to air. To bring the natural color back boil the heart with a bit of lemon and salt.
So let’s raise a spiked leaf to Marilyn and the long line of California’s Artichoke Queens.