Last year, compelled by his rich Italian heritage, The Perfect Man planted artichokes. Tender gray-green leaves sprouted, stalled and then took off in a lavish display of foliage that radiated three feet from the central stalk. This spring, a promising vertical shoot rose from the plant’s base, and then another. And another. Soon, there were tasty green artichokes aplenty. We ate them, shared them, and in an almost superhuman effort (for two artichoke lovers, anyway) left one on the plant to bloom. The huge, surreal artichoke flower is a study in contrasts: thorny and tender, aromatic and yet faintly stinky. Bees love them.
I’m proud of The Perfect Man’s artichoke crop. I’ve never seen them grow in this region… in fact, I had never heard of them being cultivated in the United States outside California. Native to the Mediterranean, they were adored by the Romans — not only as a culinary delight, but also as a popular pre-Viagra remedy for men who lacked a certain lustiness. From its earliest cultivation, deep in the recesses of history, the artichoke has been a world leader in the “sexiest vegetable” category.
With the collapse of the Roman Empire, the artichoke dropped off the cultural radar for awhile. But by the Middle Ages it reappeared, and was quickly forbidden to young maidens, lest they become overwhelmed by its reputedly potent aphrodisiacal powers. Luckily for artichoke fans (as well as young maidens) the unconventional Catherine de Medici ate them constantly, and even included them in her trousseau when she arrived in France for her wedding with King Henry II. Soon French cooks discovered what the Italians had known all along: artichokes are scrumptious.
But don’t take my word for it… check out the recipe section here. Happy eating, maidens! Try not to be overwhelmed.