Artichokes are curious looking vegetables. These unbloomed flowers are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables and are part of the sunflower family. Descendants of the cardoon, a type of thistle, early varieties of the artichoke were first grown in Ancient Greece and Rome.
According to Greek mythology, Zeus was responsible for the creation of the artichoke when he took a beautiful girl named Cynara back to Olympus to make her a goddess. When she escaped to go and visit her family, Zeus was enraged and turned her into an artichoke.
Outside their mythological origins, they were often considered an aphrodisiac, becoming a favourite of royals such as King Henry VII.
Globe artichokes first popped up in Australia during the early 1800s with evidence of them being advertised for sale in Sydney Markets as early as 1830. They were popular enough that they began being featured in recipe books by the late 1800s.
Artichokes are grown year-round, but they are considered “in season” during the spring months with a smaller bloom occurring during autumn.
To enjoy an artichoke, one must first pick away the hard petals to reach the soft, creamy heart. The petals can also be eaten though if cooked and then dipping in your choice of butter or mayonnaise and using your teeth to scrape the “meat” off of the petals. Typically, they are steamed, but they can also be enjoyed grilled!. Try this great recipe (hyperlink)