Sowandso is part of a group called You Can Grow That!. Every 4th of the month we publish posts about our favourite plants, our love for growing vegetables and our enthusiasm for gardening. Want to know more about our group then go to www.youcangrowthat.com
A long time ago, I lived in North Africa for a couple of years and I fondly remember certain culinary aspects of living in that part of the world. For example, during the late summer and Autumn I recall the colourful market stalls piled up high and groaning under the weight of globe artichokes. People filled their shopping bags with them because they were so cheap …and they were a regular on my shopping list too.
Many years later, the happy memory of feasting on boiled, often massive artichokes has slightly faded but never totally went away; the detaching of the individual petals layer by layer, the dipping of their pale green bases into a vinaigrette and the dragging off of the flesh with my front teeth, the grasping and biting of the tender inner bud, then with a teaspoon …the careful removal of the inedible choke before the final and satisfying scooping out and relishing of what I always used to call the heart but technically speaking is actually the bit where the stem meets the globe. It’s as soft as butter and makes a sumptuous prize!
Anyhow, now back in England and whilst doing my supermarket shop recently, I noticed globe artichokes for sale at £1 each (equivalent to $1.6 or €1.25). Clearly a luxury food with a price tag to match but they are not actually difficult to grow in the warm temperate climate that we enjoy here in the UK…
Globe artichokes, which are related to the thistle family, are perennials which means they go on for several years. From the second year, suckers appear at the base of the plant that can be removed with a sharp knife (leaving some root attached) to make more plants. As well as being good looking and good to eat, they are also great for wildlife. If you can bear to spare a few globes to run to flower, they will not only offer a colourful display but also attract lots of pollinating insects to the garden.
Globe Artichoke Imperial Star
Et voila – my mind was made up! So last weekend I went online and ordered six globe artichokes plants from Victoriana Nursery Gardens – a favourite website of mine that I have found myself returning to time and time again over the last year or two (my hedging plants for our Secret Garden – Cherry Plum, Rosa Rugosa and Fuschia – all came from there). I chose a variety called Globe Artichoke Imperial Star which apparently tolerates cold winters particularly well and should produce eight or more globes per year. Hmmm… six plants times eight globes… hey, at this rate I can look forward to saving nearly £50 a year!
Victoriana Nursery Gardens are kindly offering a 10% discount across their full range which includes seeds, fruit, vegetables, herbs, ornamentals, gardening equipment and gifts – just use the discount code SOWNSO.
By the way, this is a recipe from Simple Cooking by Antonio Carluccio I am looking forward to trying it VERY SOON!
Spinach and Artichoke Tart
675g frozen shortcrust pastry
Flour (to dust)
1kg spinach leaves (washed and tough stalks removed)
salt and pepper
6 tbspn olive oil
2 onions peeled and thinly sliced
6 baby artichoke hearts, trimmed and sliced
300g fresh ricotta cheese
6 eggs, beaten
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 Preheat the oven to 180 degrees c. Use a splash of olive oil to grease a 25cm tart tin then dust with a little flour
2 Blanch the spinach in boiling salted water for about 3 minutes, then drain well. Using your hands, squeeze the spinach to extract as much water as you can
3 Heat the olive oil and fry the onions briefly in a large saucepan. Add the water and the artichokes, then cover and cook until tender – about 20 minutes
4 In a bowl, put the spinach, ricotta, beaten eggs, 50g of the Parmesan, a little nutmegand some salt and pepper to taste. Mix together well.
5 Roll out the pastry thin and use it to line the prepared tart tin. Pour in the filling, sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and bake in the pre heated oven for 30 minutes. Leave to cool a little and serve.