How to eat artichokes…and everything else you ever wanted to know about California’s State Vegetable. Spoiler: it’s super scandalous!
Artichokes are incredibly popular in California. In fact, they’re our official state vegetable. But did you know that this vegetable has an utterly scandalous origin story? The artichoke’s rise to popularity is littered with sordid tales of adultery, racketeering, and even murder.
Let’s talk about the history of artichokes, how they’re grown and harvested, and finally (and arguably most importantly) how to eat artichokes!
Artichokes have been prized and revered throughout the world for thousands of years. One of the earliest mentions is found in Greek mythology.
When European immigrants settled in America, they brought seeds of their favorite fruits and vegetables with them. Some of the state’s first artichokes were grown near San Francisco in the late 1800s. In 1920, Andrew Molera planted Castroville’s first artichoke field, now know as the artichoke capital.
At the time, mob activity in New York City rampant. Terranova, an underboss, was likely looking for ways to catch the bosses’ eye, and he developed a devious, but brilliant, plan – artichoke racketeering.
Terranova coerced local grocers into selling him artichokes for pennies. He then turned around and resold the artichokes to street vendors at an exorbitant price and pocketed the difference.
The whole situation spun completely out of control. Thefts, kidnapping, and even murders had been linked to rhe artichoke hustle. The situation was so dire that in 1935, the mayor of New York had to temporarily ban the sale of artichokes.
Crews quickly evaluate artichokes for size, slice the choke from its thick stem, and toss it over their back into a backpack called a canasta.
There are countless ways to cook an artichoke. Regardless of which way you choose, they all require the same initial prep.
If you’re not accustomed to eating artichokes, it can seem like a daunting task.
To eat artichoke leaves, pull them off individually. Use your fingers to hold the artichoke leaf at the tip where it would have attached to the stem. Then put it in your mouth and scrape the tender flesh off with your teeth. To eat the artichoke heart, simply slice it into pieces and eat with a fork.
Are artichokes a vegetable? Artichokes are a perennial thistle – so while they’re widely referred to as a vegetable, they’re technically a flower.
When did artichokes become California’s state vegetable? In 2013, Gavin Newsom declared the artichoke California’s state vegetable.
Are artichokes poisonous? No parts of an artichoke are poisonous- but that doesn’t mean you should eat the whole thing!