Artichoke History and Factoids

Artichoke History and Factoids

Artichokes are believed to be one of the world’s oldest medicinal plants, dating all the way back to ancient times. They probably originated in the Mediterranean. They appeared in Egyptian hieroglyphics as symbols of sacrifice and fertility. Ancient Greeks and Romans also extolled their alleged virtues. Artichokes were seen as a gift from the gods, capable not only of enhancing sexuality, but of curing virtually any ailment. Artichokes were mentioned in the Greek and Roman literature in 77 AD.

During the 16th Century, artichokes were very popular with royalty. However, prior to that time, women in many countries were not allowed to eat artichokes at all because of their presumed aphrodisiac properties.

Although the Spanish introduced artichokes to the U.S. in the 1600s, when they brought them to California, the vegetable did not catch on in this country until the 1920s. The top producers of artichokes, today are Spain, France, and Italy, and after that, the United States. Castroville, CA, a farming region North of San Francisco, calls itself the “artichoke capital of the world”. However, its production of artichokes doesn't come close to that of Spain, France, and Italy. However, California does provide almost 100% of the artichokes grown in this country, and Castroville is home to the only artichoke-processing center in the U.S. In 1948, Marilyn Monroe (then using the name Norma Jean) was crowned Castroville’s very first Artichoke Queen.

Fun Factoids

  • The word artichoke is derived from the Italian word articiocco (or articolo) which means pine cone.
  • The ancient Greeks and Romans ate artichokes and considered it an aphrodisiac.
  • Up until the 16th century, women in many countries were not allowed to eat artichokes because of their presumed aphrodisiac properties.
  •  Despite originating in the Mediterranean in ancient times, no artichokes were grown in the United States until the 20th century.
  • Almost all of the artichokes produced in the U.S. come from California.
  • Castroville, CA calls itself the “artichoke capital of the world” even though only a very small fraction of the total artichoke crop comes from there. The top producers of artichokes today are Spain, France, and Italy.
  • Marilyn Monroe (then known by the name Norma Jean) was crowned Castroville’s first Artichoke Queen.
  • A medium artichoke contains only 60 calories and virtually no fat.
  • The 33-proof (16.5%) bittersweet Italian liqueur Cynar (often mixed with orange juice) is made from artichokes and even has an artichoke flavor.
  • The average amount of time needed to eat 1 fresh artichoke is 20 minutes.
  • Artichokes can draw blood with the prick of needles. The sharp needles should be cut off before cooking
  • Decorative centerpiece to your holiday table or flower arrangements
  • The threads inside the artichoke can be sharp as a razor and can be become lodged in your throat. Make sure you remove the stringy threads carefully before eating the heart of the artichoke
  • The threads inside the artichoke can be sharp as a razor and can be become lodged in your throat. Make sure you remove the stringy threads carefully before eating the heart of the artichoke
  • Technically speaking, the artichoke is a flower that has not bloomed. One artichoke plant can take up to 5-6 months for the bud to mature into a ready to pick artichoke
  • One plant can produce up to 20 artichokes