< Vegetables



Cynara cardunculus

Called the globe artichoke in America to distinguish it from the Jerusalem Artichoke, an unrelated edible root native to North America, this familiar perennial thistle early became a plant cultivated by market gardeners rather than the home kitchen gardener. Known from antiquity in southern Europe, the plant had a sad origination myth; an irritated god transformed a sweet girl into a bitter thistle in an arbitrary act of malice. The edibility of its head (a flower bud) was known to antiquity by the avidity with which wild asses devoured it, yet it did not become an ornament of the human table until the Romans of Pliny’s era embraced it as a culinary dimension of their playing acting at being pastoral swains and shepardesses. It inspired various responses among ancient writers. The physician Galen thought it pernicious. The poem farmer Columella praised it because it added a flavor agreeable to wine (a thought hardly conforming to any current somolier’s philosophy):

Let the prickly artichoke
Be planted, which to Bacchus, when he drinks,
Is grateful; not to Phoebus, when he sings:
This sometimes rises with a purple head,
Sphere-like, with scales close, and compactly set;
Sometimes with myrtle hair, and bended neck,
It verdant grows; sometimes with pungent top,
Like pine-tree cone; expanded some appear:
Sometimes ‘tis like an osier-basked shap’d
With threat’ning prickles horrid; sometimes pale,
It imitates brankursine’s crook’ed leaves.
(“Of Husbandry,” Book X, lines 362-72)

The Roman farmer noted six varieties of artichoke growing in the Italian peninsula. His descriptions approximate two of the forms found in cultivation at the beginning of experimental breeding in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. The Globe Artichoke had a “dusky, purplish head.” Its leaves-scales turned in at the top. And its heart tasted more succulent than those of other varieties. The ancient variety that resembled an expanded pine cone resembled the “Conical French” with its oval head and open leaves. [1]

In the antebellum United States they tended to be grown in the south. The Charleston Neck was the chief source of market artichokes then. Chef Jules Arthur Harder was instrumental in promoting the cultivation of artichokes in California during the late 1870’s.

Grown from seed or suckers, artichokes, once securely bedded in a congenial soil with good sun produce heads from six to eight years. But keeping the plants vital require proper dressing during winter. Leaves had to be cropped close to the ground, leaving only the small ones rising from the heart of the plant. Using direct trenched from between the rows, cover the crowns (about six inches) with soil lightly deposited between the young leaves. (Do not entirely bury them.) The winter row should appear as an undulating ridge. After the first frost, a dressing of dung should be administered along the ridge. After frost danger has passed, and shoots appear above ground, the soil should be cleared away and the inter-row trenches filled. The three strongest shoots should be allowed to grow, all others taken as slips for new plantings of artichokes. [2]

While artichoke hearts were occasionally mixed with sweet things, such as almonds and sugar, the standard American usage was to boil or fry the head. Only the Sweet Genoa was ever used raw in salads in the 19th century, and since it was not in general cultivation until the last two decades of the century, the fresh artichoke salad was decidedly an innovation. Often a garniture, an additive to stews, and an ancillary element of soups, the recipes below supply the standard stand-alone preparations tradition to American cookery. While artichokes were a standard market item from the 1820s onward, the culinary fashion for globe artichokes erupted in the mid-1880s. They became a standard item on the fashionable table in Gilded Age America.

1. T. G. Fessenden, The American Kitchen Gardener (NY: C. M. SAXTON, 1856), p. 11
2. Thomas Bridgeman, Young Gardener’s Assistant (New York: Mitchell & Young, 1837), pp. 20-22.

Sweet Artichoke of Genoa    History

A rather tender plant; heads pale green, elongated, spiny. The flesh of the receptacle is yellow, sweet, and very delicate in flavour.

Dark-Red Spined    History

Bud very small. The variety is remarkable for the long spines in which the scales terminate. For cultivation it is inferior to the other sorts.

Early Purple    History

Heads rather small, obtusely conical; scales short and broad, pointed, green at the base, tinged with purplish-red on the outside, towards their extremities, moderately succulent, and of good quality. The variety is early, but not hardy. In France, it is considered excellent in its crude state, served with vinegar and oil; but not so good cooked.

Green Globe    History

(Large Round-headed Globe) A large sort, much esteemed, and generally cultivated in England. Heads, or buds, nearly round, and with a dusky, purplish tint. The scales turn in at the top, and the receptacle is more fleshy than that of most varieties. It is generally preferred for the main crop, as the scales, or edible parts, are thicker and higher flavored than those of any other artichoke. It is not a hardy variety, and requires ample protection during winter.

Green, or Common    History

Bud very large, of a conical or oval form; scales deep-green, thick, and fleshy, pointed at the tips, and turned outwards. Though it has not the same thickness of flesh as the Green Globe Artichoke, it is much hardier, more prolific, and one of the best sorts for cultivation.

Green Provence    History

Bud large; scales comparatively long and narrow, of a lively green color, erect, fleshy at the base, and terminating in a sharp, brownish spine, orthorn; leaves of the plant deep green. Most esteemed in its crude state, eaten as a salad in vinegar and oil.

Loan    History

Similar to the Common Green Artichoke, but of larger size. Scales rather loose and open, deep green, fleshy, and pointed. Much cultivated in the vicinity of Paris, and there considered the best.

Large Flat Brittany    History

Bud of medinm size, somewhat globular, but flattened at thetop; scales closely set together, Wi. green, brownish on the borders, — short, thick, and fleshy at the base. Earlier than the Laon, but not so fleshy. Much grown in Anjou and Brittany.

Boiled Artichokes (Vaughn’s Vegetable Cook Book 1898)    History

The edible part of a French Artichoke is the base of the scales and the bottom of the artichoke. The Jerusalem artichoke is a genuine tuber something like a potato. They are differently treated in preparation for cooking, but are cooked similarly. To prepare a French artichoke for boiling, pull off the outer leaves, cut the stalks close to the bottom, wash well and throw into cold salt water for two hours. To boil, plunge them into boiling salted water, stalk end up with an inverted plate over them to keep them down. Boil until very tender, season well, drain and arrange on a dish with tops up. Pour over any good vegetable sauce. (See Sauces.) To prepare Jerusalem artichokes for boiling pare and slice thin into cold water to prevent turning dark, boil in salted water, season and serve with drawn butter or a good sauce. Vaughn’s Seed Store, Vaughn’s Vegetable Cook Book (New York, 18980, p. 2.

Artichokes, Stuffed (The Book of Entrees 1886)    History

Trim and wash four artichokes; remove the " choke" found in the center; make a stuffing of bread-crumbs nicely seasoned with a preparation made as follows: Mince half a pound of ham, warm it, and add a dozen canned mushrooms chopped fine, a teaspoonful of chopped parsley, a few blades of chives, salt, and pepper. Add the crumbs, and moisten with clear soup or hot water; work all to a paste, and fill the artichokes with it. Tie each artichoke neatly; put them in a pan with a little butter, to prevent burning, and a pint of clear soup; cover the pan, and let them steam in their own vapors until tender. Thomas Jefferson Murrey, The Book of Entrees (New York: White, Stokes & Allen, 1886), p. 39.

Stewed Artichokes (Mrs. Hale’s New Book of Cookery 1852)    History

Strip off the leaves, remove the choke, ana soak them in warm water for two or three hours, changing the water every hour; then put them into a stew-pan with a piece of butter rolled in Cayenne pepper and flour; a tea-cupful of gravy, arid a spoonful or two of catsup or other sauce; add a spoonful of vinegar, or one of lemon-juice, before serving; let all stew till the artichokes are quite tender, and, if necessary, thicker the sauce with a little more butter. Sarah Josepha Hale, Mrs. Hale’s New Book of Cookery (New York: H. Long & Brother, 1852), p. 288.

Fried Artichokes (Miss Leslie’s New Cookery Book 1857)    History

The artichokes must be young and tender. Cut them into quarters, remove the choke part, and strip off the leaves. Having washed the artichokes well and laid them an hour in cold water, put them into a pot of boiling water, and keep them boiling steadily for a long time, till you find by trying them with a a fork that they are tender all through. Then take them out immediately, and drain them. Have ready a sufficiency of batter, made in the proportion cf the yolk of one egg to a large tablespoonful of milk, and a tea-spoonful of flour. The eggs must be well beaten before they are mixed with the milk ; then beat in the flour a 3poonful at a time. Have ready over the fire some fresh butter, or lard, in a frying-pan. When it has boiled hard, dip the artichokes into the butter, (each piece should be twice dipped,) and fry them brown. Then drain them well, and send them to table hot. (Philadelphia: Peterson, 1857), p. 363.

Artichoke Fritters (Boston Cooking School Magazine 1899)    History

Artichoke fritters are made by cutting the cooked bottoms (as the heart is called) into small dice. Put a tablespoonful of butter into a saucepan, add a pint of the prepared artichokes, half a pint of milk, half a teaspoonful of finely-minced parsley, a teaspoonful of salt, a dash of white pepper, and the beaten yolks of two eggs. Stir until the sauce thickens, then remove, and add a teaspoonful of lemon juice. Roll out puff paste very thin, and stamp out with a round cutter; on half the rounds put a tablespoonful of the artichoke, cover with a second round of paste, pinching the edges well together. Place in a wire frying-basket, plunge into smoking-hot fat, and fry until a delicate golden brown. Lift from the fat and turn on to thick brown paper, to absorb the surface grease. Serve, at once, on a white napkined dish, surrounded by a wreath of parsley. This is an excellent entree. Eleanor M. Lucas, “The Sweetheart of Vegetables,” Boston Cooking School Magazine 4 (1899), p. 65.

Puree of Artichokes (The Modern Cook 188?)    History

Turk or peel the bottoms of a dozen fine artichokes, and, after taking out the fibrous part inside, cut each into four pieces; put them into a large stewpan previously well buttered, and strewn with a little pounded sugar,—placing the pieces of artichokes closely beside each other, and then set them on a slow fire to stew very gently, that they may acquire a light brown colour. Proceed to rub the whole through a tammy-cloth iu the usual way, and clarify the puree. Just before sending to table, add a pint of boiling cream. Charles Elmé Francatellia, The Modern Cook; a practical guide to the Culinary Art in All its Branches (New York, 1880) p. 73.

Dry Pickle of Artichoke Bottoms (Cook’s Own Book 1840)    History

Half boil the artichokes, strip off the leaves, and pull out the choke; put the bottoms into small jars, and cover them with a cold boiled brme of salt and water; put melted mutton suet on the top to exclude the air, and tie bladder over them. To dry them, they are boiled as for eating, leaves and choke pulled out, and the bottoms dried upon dishes in an oven, and then kept in paper bags. When to be dressed, they must be laid into warm water, and soaked for two or three hours; they may then be plain boiled, and eaten with melted butter, or stewed in gravy with a little mushroom catsup, pepper, and salt, and thickened with a bit of butter rolled in flour. They are a great improvement to all made dishes and meat pies. A Boston Housekeeper, The Cook’s Own Book, and Housekeeper’s Register (Boston: Munroe & Francis, 1840), p. 7.

Pickled Artichoke Bottoms (Cook’s Own Book 1840)    History

Boil the artichokes till the leaves can be pulled off without breaking the bottoms; leave on the part called the choke, set them aside till cold, then put them into wide-mouthed bottles. Boil, in vinegar, some salt, pepper, mace, and sliced nutmeg, and, when cold, pour it over the artichokes; tie bladder over the bottles. A Boston Housekeeper, The Cook’s Own Book, and Housekeeper’s Register (Boston: Munroe & Francis, 1840), p. 7.