Globe Artichokes

Globe Artichokes

Globe artichokes have an exquisite flavor and are a very sociable food to eat. They grow in abundance in Brittany, and during July and August farmers can frequently be seen selling them by the roadside. The globes are huge hearty specimens and are extremely fresh, so they make a good buy.

History : It is not known for certain whether artichokes were eaten in antiquity. Although they are mentioned by writers, they could have been referring to the cardoon, which is the uncultivated form of artichoke. Cardoons grew wild in many southern European countries, and, as far as it is known, cultivated artichokes first became a popular food in Italy. Nowadays, artichokes are grown all over southern Europe and in California. People in Italy, France and Spain eat artichokes while the vegetable is still young, before the choke has formed and the entire artichoke is edible. Unfortunately, such young delicacies are not exported but look out for them if you are in these countries.

Buying and Storing : it is only worth buying artichokes when they are in season, although they are available in supermarkets almost all year round. In winter, however, they are sad looking specimens, small and rather dry, and are really not worth the bother of cooking. At their best, artichokes should be lively looking with a good bloom on their leaves, the inner leaves wrapped tightly round the choke and heart inside. Artichokes will keep for 2-3 days in the salad drawer of the fridge but are best eaten as soon as possible.

Cardoons

This impressively large vegetable is closely related to the globe artichoke and has a superb flavor, a cross between artichokes and asparagus. Cultivated plants frequently grow to 2 meters / 6 feet in height, and once mature, cardoons, like celery, are blanched as they grow. This process involves wrapping the stalks with newspaper and black bags for several weeks, so that when harvested, in late autumn, before the frosts, the stalks are a pale green. The cardoon is a popular vegetable in southern Europe but less commonly available elsewhere. In Spain, for instance, it is much appreciated and often appears on the table, poached and served with chestnuts or walnuts. Only the inner ribs and heart are used.

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