Archive for May 22nd, 2009

Passing Pleasures: Artichokes

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      Artichokes are a wonderful addition to the New Mexico garden. They are splendid silvery architectural bushes for the cooler seasons of the year, and provide a rare treat to their enthusiasts.

       One of the overlooked aspects of front yard gardening is that neat greens like Swiss Chard can’t be used as edging because passers-by don’t know vegetables when they see them, or don’t care, and so they let their dogs urinate on anything along the sidewalk. I solve this problem by edging my front garden with artichokes: the edible part happens a few feet off the ground, and until a squadron of Irish Wolfhounds comes to my neighborhood, I’m safe.

     Now is the time to start artichokes from seed, to enjoy next spring. I like the common “Green Globe” best. The plants typically live 3-4 years in our area. The scaly buds don’t get as big as they do on the misty west coast, but they’re very delicious. A deep watering once a week is plenty once they’re established. They don’t produce over a long season, but for two weeks in late spring we revel in all the fresh artichokes we can eat, and a rare feast it is, too. If you’re interested in such things, artichokes contain abundant amounts of two antioxidants, cynarin and silymarin, which are found only in the thistle family. I’m not sure what this really means nutritionally, but it does mean that when I feel tired and out of sorts, I can eat a plate of artichokes, telling myself that a good dose of cynarin will fix me right up. It usually does, too, unless it’s the bagna cauda or the general abundance of the season that I’m responding to.
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