Yep...this artichoke is big, and it's all for me.
Having just driven through Castroville (between Monterey & Santa Cruz), which produces a whopping 80% of commercially grown artichoke, and seeing all those fabulous, healthy looking artichoke plants, I have to admit I have artichokes on the brain.
And then, I pick up the May 2007 issue of Body & Soul magazine and am treated to this lovely little article, Power Foods:Artichokes, by Jane Black. Turns out, artichokes are a nutritional powerhouse, high in fiber, iron, magnesium, Vitamin C, and Folate. But, Black draws our attention to the fact that artichokes contain both silymarin (yes, we here in Marin are a silly bunch) and cynarin, both of which promote liver health. And, Black's article explained why I saw weird signs in Castroville of Marilyn Monroe with artichokes...she was crowned the first Artichoke Queen in 1948 (and, you know, they say artichokes are aphrodisiacs).
So before I switch into my St. George's Day celebration of English Food (it's a Becks & Posh blogger event, darling, that I strongly encourage you to particpate in), let me sing the praises of the California artichoke. While the Spanish brought the artichoke to California in the 1600's, they were not "widely grown until the 1920's, when Andrew Molera of the Salinas Valley was willing to try out the "new" vegetable" (source: Gourmet Sleuth.com).
Back in my younger days, I went through a serious artichoke phase, in which I ate 1-2 artichokes for dinner every night for months. They were simply steamed and each petal was dipped in melted butter (with added salt!), which is how I'll be enjoying this monster. There's really nothing quite like eating an artichoke. It's a wonderful slow food experience. People have their preferences, but I say: forget the lemon, the breadcrumbs, the mayo! Melted butter with extra salt is the way to go!
I've cooked recipes with artichokes, but, honestly, they all seem like a waste. If you're going to enjoy this thistle before it blooms into a lovely purple flower, I say, enjoy it alone, as it is.