One of our favorite spring veggies is the Jumbo Heirloom Artichoke—otherwise known as the “Great-Grandaddy of Artichokes”—grown for us by our partners at Ocean Mist Farms. We went to visit Ocean Mist’s artichoke fields in California to learn more about the company’s history and how they grow their artichokes.
When a farm boasts a 90-year legacy of growing great-tasting vegetables, you know their reputation as one of the leading growers of produce in North America is well earned. In 1924 Daniel Pieri, along with his two cousins Amerigo and Angelo Del Chiaros, founded the California Artichoke & Vegetable Growers Corporation (renamed Ocean Mist Farms in 1995). Back in the early days the fledgling business sold artichokes out of a tin shed at the Del Monte Junction, but has since grown to include operations in Arizona and Mexico producing dozens of varieties of great vegetables and employing almost 1,500 people.
Our mission to bring our customers the very best in fresh led us out west, where we sampled (and even picked!) fresh Heirloom Artichokes with Ocean Mist farmers and learned about what makes them so special. This particular species is produced from rootstock and grown perennially, meaning they’re farmed in the same field for many years. The plant requires an annual pruning where it’s cut down to bare ground. A few weeks later, multiple shoots will emerge from the rootstock and initiate the production cycle. Artichoke buds will begin to grow at the base of each shoot; the shoots will then grow into stalks which can support up to 10 artichokes each. After several months, each artichoke will grow from the size of a pea until it’s large enough for harvest.
Now for the real question: how do they taste? The Heirloom has thick, meaty petals that pack an intense “woodsy” taste. We think they’re best prepared simply: grilled or steamed and dressed in olive oil and fresh-squeezed lemon juice.
Shop for Heirlooms here.