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Local Artichoke Season
Local Artichoke Season
The artichoke plants, which are native to the Mediterranean, are always a welcome guest on any plate. We wanted to see both the globe artichoke as well as the Jerusalem artichoke growing in its natural habitat. We sought out farmer Marion Cini because he grows both types of artichokes on his farm near Popeye Village. Marion and his brother are the farmers of this land and it is an incredible sight to see so many globe artichokes growing in the fields. You can see the produce growing in rows for miles.
Marion and his family grow two kinds of artichokes, the Jerusalem artichoke and the globe artichoke. The globe artichoke is what we usually think of when it comes to artichokes due to its round green or purple color, wrapped by leaves and the heart in the centre. These artichoke leaves have small spikes at the end of each leaf. As we learned from Marion, the sharper the spikes are at the end of each leaf, the fresher and more recently cut the artichoke plant tends to be. A simple test is to place the leaves against the palm of the hand and compare with the other artichokes in the same bin to choose the freshest ones.
Both types of artichokes come with their own set of health benefits. The globe artichoke hearts that we see freshly cut in the stores offer several things to increase your overall health and vitality. They are said to improve good cholesterol, regulate blood pressure, improve liver function, contain a high level of vitamins including potassium the globe artichoke is often referred to as a superfood because of its nutritional profile.
The Jerusalem artichoke looks like ginger as it is a root vegetable and is often mistaken for either a potato depending if its already been cut or a piece of ginger in its natural uncut or unpeeled state. These artichokes are dug up from the dirt. They are root vegetables and are farmed the same way that potatoes are harvested. The Jerusalem artichoke comes with its own set of vitamins and minerals also offering protein and fiber as added benefits. Many people cook with these artichokes in place of potatoes. You can roast them, bake them, broil or steam the way you would a potato. The Jerusalem are planted in March and become ripe beginning in December and grow through the following March. It is basically a full year of growth stages for these root vegetables. These grow in the ground the way that potatoes grow. When you dig them out, they look like fresh ginger. These are usually found in the stores already packaged with several together, unlike the globe artichokes that are sold separately. Both are found in the produce isles.
With artichoke hearts, they are planted either by hand or by machine. On the Cini farm, there are more than 2,000 plants of artichoke hearts. They plant them at the end of August into early September and then the artichokes are harvested December through May.
The traditional Maltese way of preparing artichokes is to stuff them with garlic, olive oil, sea salt and parsley right into the center of the globe and steam or bake. Artichokes can be served as a meal on its own or often as an appetiser with its own family recipe of creamy or olive oil dipping sauce to use as we dip each leaf before we sink our teeth and pull the meat off the base enjoying every leaf before we finally get to the soft and scrumptious meat in the centre.