When Alex, Grace and I drive along Highway 1 each summer from Santa Cruz to Monterey, the fields are filled with countless types of berry and vegetable crops: strawberries, raspberries, artichokes, kale and romaine lettuce just to name a few. We love stopping along the way at various produce stands to purchase fresh snacks for our road trip. The rich, intense flavors just cannot be matched by produce found in the grocery stores. In an attempt to capture that freshness back home in Frisco, Texas, we planted a small garden in our backyard that includes sweet basil, rosemary, lemon balm, strawberries, romaine lettuce, chard, cilantro, spearmint, Greek oregano, and last but not least, the unsightly artichoke plant. Not expecting much return on my initial $2.50 artichoke plant investment (my friends from Whole Foods shared they had not been successful with theirs), I was pleasantly surprised when a single artichoke began to take form atop the center of the spiny leaved plant.
After (proudly) monitoring its growth for many days through my kitchen window, it was time to harvest this intriguing vegetable and prepare it for dinner that evening. As I approached the intimidating, almost prehistoric, plant to snatch the fruits of my labor, my eyes gazed upon more artichokes popping up all over the spiky leaved shrub that now spanned almost 6 feet across. The original artichoke now had siblings!
Quite pleased with the resulting yield of this one plant, I snipped off that first artichoke I had become so familiar with. After being washed, steamed and drenched in melted garlic butter, this lone artichoke found itself sitting confidently, adorned with a modest sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese, in the center of our dinner table.
After offering thanks, we shared one of the most delightful meal experiences ever……..
…I was speechless…….words truly cannot describe the intense, hearty, delicious flavor of this artichoke. And then came the hidden treasure, the gold mine, the tender heart of the artichoke. It was like no other we had tasted before. We savored its rich, smooth, earthy, unique flavor. The vote was unanimous. It was the best artichoke we’d ever tasted!
With the gentle nurturing of Mother Earth and a lot of patience, we had successfully captured the freshness and full flavors of the produce growing on the farms lining Highway 1 in Monterey County.
So far, this one artichoke plant has produced 11 artichokes! And each is just as delicious as the first!