By Way of Louisiana
With their hard core and prickly leaves, artichokes may seem daunting to a first-timer. But don’t let their medieval looks fool you. An artichoke can be trimmed, steamed, and on the table in a little less than an hour, most of which is unattended. Better yet, stuff them with garlicky breadcrumbs—Italian-style—and call it dinner.
While you’re likely to find piles of artichokes at your local market year-round, the tasty thistles are at their peak now until May, after the mild winter of Central California works its magic. Yes, nearly all them are grown in the Golden State (by a single company, in fact). But the South does have a claim in the evolution of artichokes in the United States: More than 200 years ago, French settlers brought them to Louisiana and established the first commercial crop in the country. It wasn’t until the 1940s that production had all but shifted west.