A Salivatin' Sight INDEED!!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The "Pineapple" Artichoke
I like mine with BUTTER! Okay -- mebbe just a little bit of melted butter -- combined with margarine and garlic salt. That's the pefect dipping sauce for a beauty of an artichoke like this one to your right.

As for the wife? The wife that is Venus goes ALL out when it comes to the perfect artichoke dipping sauce. Sure -- there's a LOT of bit of butter -- some fresh lemon juice -- fresh herbs from the herb garden and just a tiny bit of salt.

And that makes it just right. What is your favorite dipping sauce? We're taking suggestions -- because we're about to come into a "boatload of artichokes."

I am literally licking my lips at the thought of the 2011 artichoke season. As the photo in the upper right will attest and the others below will show -- that season is just around the corner. And -- I might add -- it's also a tad early this year.

Oh, that's just tooooo bad!

The "Mother Bed"
After a disappointing 2010 artichoke season -- the "mother" plants have rebounded in a big way this spring. They've nearly grown right out of the raised bed I have them contained in and have nearly reached the top of a six-foot-high fence. I have never seen them get quite this large or quite this lush before. But I'm not complaining. Oh no -- not Bill Bird. Not in the slightest.

You see -- do you know what large and lush artichoke plants will result in? Large, lush and tender artichokes hopefully.

How do I know when artichoke season is right around the corner? It's when they begin showing up at the local supermarket -- usually at a pretty good price too. It's not all that uncommon to find them at Sacramento area supermarkets with a price tag of two for $3 or $5.

And it's well worth the price. Venus and I always make sure to purchase four or six of them. It sort of whets the appetite for what is to come. For there is nothing folks -- nothing quite like -- the taste of an artichoke that you grow right in your own backyard. It's just as unique and tasty as a home-grown tomato or any home-grown fruit. There's just something "special" about them.

Artichokes here. Artichokes there. Artichokes everywhere!
So -- "what's so special Bill Bird," you ask? Well -- I'll tell you. Our home grown chokes have a nutty -- almost walnut-like flavor to them. It's a unique taste that you don't find with artichokes that are now arriving by the thousands from coastal farming areas. Another difference? The heart of our home-grown chokes -- that "prize" that artichoke lovers yearn for -- is both larger and richer.

Another thing about artichokes? We have different types. The artichoke featured in the picture at the top is what I refer to as the "Pineapple Artichoke" because the shape of the leaves at the top very much reminds me of the tough bark surrounding a pineapple. These also make for the largest artichokes out of our artichoke patch -- but it doesn't mean the other varieties are bad. Indeed -- they are just as unique in shape, size and taste. No two are alike.

But do you know what the best part of home-grown artichokes is? They're not "two for $3." They're not even "one for a dollar." It's as many as you can get from a backyard patch through the spring and early summer months for $0. A home grown patch consisting of 10-12 productive plants can produce 75-80 good-sized artichokes. The goal? The goal is to eat so many artichokes over the next three months that you can't stand to even look at them anymore.

That's the sign of a good season!

Secondary Bed. Plants less than one year old.
This is shaping up to be a unique season -- like no other -- because as lush and large as the mother plants are -- it's the secondary bed that I planted last fall that has me intrigued. The plants in this bed were transplanted over from the mother bed. Most of them reacted to the move by falling flat on their faces. Artichokes look like death when you transplant them from one bed to another. It's just the way they are. They rebounded soon enough though -- as the photo shows. They are not nearly as large or lush as the mother plants -- but that's to be expected.

They'll get there. Give them a few years.

What is most interesting however -- is that the transplants are a good two weeks behind the plants in the mother bed in terms of production. Are they producing artichokes? You bet they are! But they haven't emerged just yet. You can spot them by digging gently into the center leaves -- it's almost like peeling back a banana. They are there -- but they are behind.

Emerging Artichoke from secondary bed
So what will happen? I'm not too sure. I've never dealt with two artichoke beds before. I never had the room for more than one. It was always my intention to create two different beds with our move to the Bird Back 40 -- but "other projects" just got in the way. I finally did get around to creating that second bed last spring -- and populated said bed with starters last fall. After falling flat from transplant -- they sprang back to life and continued to grow through the cold and wet winter months.

Although I can't tell what will happen next -- I can tell you what our hope is. Our hope is that by the time the artichokes in the mother bed begin to play out -- artichoke season will be in full swing in the secondary bed. That means an extended season. Instead of 45-days of artichokes coming out of our ears -- we'll get 90.

It might get so bad that you'll see me on the street begging passing motorists to please take them off my hands.

We'll see about that.

To flower or not to flower? That is the question...
There is another "conundrum" so to speak. Should I allow some of these delicious artichokes to actually flower as God and Mother Nature intended? They are WONDERUL pollen sources for the Hello Kitty Hive. They are THICK with pollen. The bees love them. BUT -- if you allow an artichoke plant to flower -- it will result in decreased production the following year.

Venus and I love our bees -- yes -- but we also love our artichokes! Questions! Questions!

I'll be honest with you though. This is a nice problem to have.