In the garden there used to be globe artichokes which produced dramatic silver-green leaves and thistle-like flowers. I meant to try eating them before they flowered, but never did. Those plants disappeared, so I planted two more. They have grown huge – nearly two metres – and are tied up and braced to prevent them toppling over. The flowers are gorgeous and they keep coming, so I cut one bud, and gave it a go.
I vaguely remembered how, many years ago (late 70s early 80s) at the Carey’s Bay home of some hippy-style professionals (veterinarians) who were into all manner of exotic plants, we peeled the leaves off globe artichokes and dipped them in garlic butter. It was a novelty and a pleasant appetiser. Since then I’ve occasionally observed artichoke hearts on antipasto platters – those squishy-looking things which are either left till last or left on the plate untouched.
Digby Law’s A Vegetable Cookbook has various ways of presenting them – including with garlic butter – all beginning with boiling, with salt and lemon juice added to the water. I followed these instructions and then was sad to see two small spiders had been boiled as well, and there were black specks in the water – spider babies? Had I killed a whole spider whanau?
The next step is to take off each leaf, dip it in garlic butter and slide the bottom of the leaf over your teeth to remove the soft base. This was quite enjoyable, apart from the discovery of a small cooked slug. There are several layers of leaves, then the choke emerges, which you cut away, and finally the base (often called the heart) which is the delicacy according to Digby Law.
It was an interesting experience and at least I can say I’ve done it. The garlic butter was the better part of it, perhaps. There’s an after-taste best followed up with something to clear the palate.
My conclusion is that I can rest safe in the knowledge that I’m not missing out on anything, and fully enjoy the wondrous spectacle of the plant in the garden.