Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Being from California artichokes are aplenty here. In fact one of my friends grew up on an Artichoke farm near Monterrey where her family still farms them.
I have seen recipes for Artichoke soup and dishes in historic US cookbooks dating back to the early 1900's so I was wondering when they were introduced to the US.

Common US Artichokes, Cynara scolymus, (also called French artichokes) are native to the Mediterranean. They are an edible flower from the thistle family and are also related to sun flowers. The English name is derived from the Italian name articiocco which in turn is from Arabic word al-khurshuf which means thistle. Cocali is a Ligurian word meaning a pine cone.

Varities: There are many varities of artichoke, the most common being the globe artichoke. They come in many colors including purple.

The artichoke has been eaten by humans for over 3000 years. They first appeared in literature around 40-70 AD in the works of the Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides in his book The Greek Herbal of Dioscorides a medicinal plant book. The Latin name for artichoke is cynara.

Around 800 AD artichoke cultivation began in Granada, Spain by the North African Moors as well as in Sicily by other Arabic people. It is believed that the modern artichoke appeared at this time through these cultivations.

They were introduced to France in the mid 1500's by Catherine de Medici, from Italy, who married King Henry II of France. Quote: "If one of us had eaten artichokes, we would have been pointed out on the street. Today young women are more forward than pages at the court."

It was introduced to England by ?? and first appears in a literature there in the 1500's.

The Artichoke was introduced to the US by French and Italian immigrants in the early 1900's. Cultivation began in the west coast near Half Moon Bay California in the 1920's (where my friends family farm is located).

Due to mafia activity and involvement with artichoke production in 1935 artichokes were banned in New York. They were not permitted to be displayed or sold, even possession was illegal.

"In the 1920s, Ciro Terranova "Whitey" (1889-1938), a member of the mafia and known as the "Artichoke King," began his monopoly of the artichoke market by purchasing all the produce shipped to New York from California at $6 a crate. He created a produce company and resold the artichokes at 30 to 40 percent profit. Not only did he terrorize distributors and produce merchants, he even launched an attack on the artichoke fields from Monetary to Pescadero, hacking down the plants with machetes in the dead of night. These "artichoke wars" led the Mayor or New York, Fiorello La Guardia, to declare "the sale, display, and possession" of artichokes in New York illegal. Mayor La Guardia publicly admitted that he himself loved the vegetable and after only one week he lifted the ban."

Artichoke Lore and Legends

Ancient Greeks believed them to be an aphrodisiac increase the likelihood of having male children.

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