Playing along with the Alphabet in August

A is for

I’m not quite sure how this works. But I think the idea is to go through the alphabet and describe yourself with each letter in turn.

I’m an artichoke admirer. This is the only plant that survived from when we started trying to grow these back in 2007. It hides under the apple tree and the ants bring the black aphids and party on down big time in my one surviving artichoke. When you buy these commercially if they have no aphids they will have been sprayed a lot. Always worth thinking about when you buy vegetables.

We encourage the ladybirds to stay and breed in the garden and the ladybird larvae usually eat all the aphids they can find. Sometimes though the aphids seem to get the upper hand, but eventually the ladybirds do their magic and a balance is restored.

My sister is passionate about artichokes, as was my mother, who was often heard to say she would rather have an artichoke for dessert than a creamy cakey thing.

Wish I had more than one plant but so it goes sometimes. We had four artichokes from this one last month.  I like to eat them boiled with a little butter and lots of sea salt and black pepper, but they are also very good with a nice balsamic vinaigrette.

The artichoke can be an intimidating vegetable if you have never faced one on the plate. You only nibble the fleshy bases of the leaves which you peel off one at a time, discarding the leaves. Take the hairy choke part away, ( a teaspoon can be helpful here) and then you are left with the prize, the base, grey and unappetising looking and tasting faintly of aniseed, but quite addictive once you get a taste for them. Some artichokes picked small enough have no choke at all –  those are the ones you find most often in jars in delicatessens.

Anyway hope I did this right. If you want to join in, visit Chiots Blog here to find out more about The Alphabet in August. I’ll see if I can keep up!

Image from Chiots Blog by permission.

21 thoughts on “Playing along with the Alphabet in August

    1. Joanna Post author

      I make no promises that I will get through the entire A-Z but as long as it can be a bit fluid who knows I might…

  1. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    This sounds like fun! Will you be doing a post a day to get through all 26 in the time you have left? :)

    We’ve not grown artichokes, and I must confess to never having tried to cook them either. But I don’t mind the antipasto ones at all, so maybe I need to give the fresh ones a go! Thanks for the suggestion, looking forward to B! :)


    1. Joanna Post author

      Artichokes are delicious, I am my mother’s child, we like all vegetables that begin with A, asparagus, artichokes, arugula,… Speaking of A’s, the new Arietty film is supposed to be lovely. Is it you who are a Borrowers fan or is it someone else?

  2. teawithhazel

    lovely things to look at and eat but a pain to prepare if you do the trim back the leaves remove the choke routine..and of course they oxidise quickly so don’t forget the acidulated water..and don’t try all this unless you want brown stained hands for days! love your alphabet challenge :) jane

    1. Joanna Post author

      Jane you sound like a professional artichoke wrangler :) I’m afraid I don’t usually remove the choke till they are cooked or do the trimming thing. I’ve seen it in books but for us at home it seems a bit too much like hard work. We just have a big bowl in the middle of the table where we fling our leaves and chat while we work our way round the artichokes. There’s usually some debate as to whether one should slice through the choke with a knife or scoop it out with a sharp edged teaspoon in order to retain maximum base. My sister cooks the stalks too.

      Just thinking about my B here…. are you going to join in too?

  3. cityhippyfarmgirl

    Joanna this post made me think of the first time I ate artichoke. I was in Italy as a 16 year old, and had never eaten the leaves dipped in a sauce, or actually even seen someone do it beofre. That first leaf took a looong time to get chewed and finally go down… but I did it! Then realised that WASN”T how it was done. (Thank goodness, or it would have been a very long meal.)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Poor you Brydie, how could you have known without being told?. I had a friend at college who had a similar experience at a posh restaurant where she was being interviewed for a job. I think she said she ate most of the artichoke and no one said a word…(shakes head in bewilderment and sighs). At least you didn’t try and eat the choke ;) (I hope).

      Anyone considering artichokes for the first time, do check out the videos on the subject on the internet. There is even one of a woman demonstrating how her dog eats them on Vimeo.

  4. jan trounce

    Well, I don’t know what happened there, I was gabbling away and the blogosphere turned the lights out on me and then on again – and my precious gabble had disappeared into the ether!! Love artichokes. Have you ever had cardoons Joanna – I was flipping through the blogs and I’m sure I read the word cardoons somewhere in my peregrinations. I know Clarissa Dickson-Wright is a fan of them – have you read her autobiography – Spilling the Beans – it’s a book you don’t forget.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Fickle place the blogosphere, (for some reason that word makes me think of Lewis Carolll) Yes I have cardoons in the garden too, well remembered. I used to watch Clarissa on tv with her friend. I remember her chocolate lies flottantes. seriously and wonderfully OTT the pair of them.

      1. jan trounce

        I loved Clarissa’s naughty sense of humour and Jennifer’s bursts of song and poetry and their joint, sniffy dismissal of yogurt as a substitue for cream.

  5. heidi

    I like my artichokes eaten casually and at home. Wouldn’t consider eating it any other way- I tend to get drips of butter on my front. ( Seriously, I should just wear a bib.)
    I love them marinated and in salads as well.
    This looks like a fun game- I’m happy to read along with you on your blog.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Pinafores on here like a shot whenever there is activity food on the table. Nothing beats butter dripping gently down a chin, whether from a tender artichoke leaf or the bottom of a crispy crumpet :)

  6. bagnidilucca

    I have cooked artichokes several times in Italy. If you get them young and fresh the preparation is easy. You just take off the toughest outer leaves, peel the stalk , trim the top,cut them in half and place in a hot pan with a bit of olive oil, then pour in a bit of white wine and cook for about 15 minutes or until soft. Then you can dress them with whatever you like, oil, lemon, salt & pepper etc. I have never found a hairy choke despite searching for the wretched things.

  7. drfugawe

    Supposedly, artichokes grow well here, but I’ve never had any that made it past year one – perhaps a measure of my gardening skills – but I love them, and if they’d grow, I’d devote the entire garden to artichokes – no leaves, just hearts.

    1. Joanna Post author

      The little I know about growing them is that a) they are hungry for food, lots of manure/rotted compost b) some individual plants are better than others so that if you get a good one you should split it or take thongs or something or other like that, I suppose the equivalent of cuttings. I wonder why they don’t grow for you. But as I have only one surviving plant from the original five I grew from seed I can only surmise that they aren’t the easiest thing to grow… I just had four little very prickly artichokes from Mitch’s allotment for lunch today, a different variety from the ones i grew. Maybe try some different varieties? Or maybe we should just move to Italy :D

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