General Information: Artichokes are the edible, immature flowers of a cultivated thistle that was introduced to America by Italian immigrants who settled in California around the turn of the century.
The stems, once the tough, stringy outer layer has been peeled off, are edible and just as tasty as the heart. These long stem purple artichokes are very large and the thick leaves are packed with meat. Try them boiled, steamed or baked, then lightly drizzled with olive oil and topped with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon.
History: The artichoke was first developed in Sicily and was known to both the Greeks and the Romans. In 77 AD the Roman naturalist Pliny called the choke one of earth's monstrosities, but many continued to eat them. Historical accounts show that wealthy Romans enjoyed artichokes prepared in honey and vinegar, seasoned with cumin, so that this treat would be available year round.
It was not until the early twentieth century that artichokes were grown in the United States. All artichokes commercially grown in the United States are grown in California and Castroville, California, claims to be the "Artichoke Capital of the World." California even has an Artichoke Queen - the most famous queen was Marilyn Monroe in 1947. She inspired more people to eat artichokes in that year reign than any year before or after.