Where Did Artichoke Originate?

Where artichokes originated, no one really knows for sure – no relative of the artichoke is known.  But food historians do agree on one thing: this thistle-like plant may have come from the Mediterranean near Sicily.

Artichokes was known to have been used as early as 500 BC as an expensive specialty and from Sicily, have found their way to Naples and Florence.  By the time 18th century rolled around, the artichoke has been adopted by France as a culinary privilege that only members of the aristocracy can afford.

During that time, artichokes were also believed to have aphrodisiac qualities – no woman was ever allowed to eat artichokes except probably for Catherine de Medici, the wife of King Henry II, who was said to have eaten artichokes openly in large quantities.

By then, artichokes were being grown in Paris, Greece and Spain.  Its reputation has even been raised to gourmet status.  But contrary to how the French accepted this plant, artichokes were ignored by the British as indeed they often do with every new vegetable that come their way.

The United States – California to be precise – has been introduced to artichokes during the 19th century by the Spanish; the French bringing the new plant to Louisiana.

The interest to this flower-like vegetable increased to such heights that it has been named the official vegetable in Monterey County and Castroville, California named itself “The Artichoke Center of the World.”

Today, many restaurants in New Orleans, where a lot of French have settled, feature artichokes in their menus.  France, Spain, Algeria, Turkey and Italy are some of the world’s top artichoke producers.  In The US, almost one hundred percent of artichokes grown come from California.

Since artichokes are now cultivated worldwide, it has become an affordable vegetable.  It has also lost its esoteric reputation and men and women alike are now permitted to eat this vegetable.

Differing only in the size of the flower head, the Globe artichoke is closely related to Cardoon, another thistle-like plant from the Mediterranean.  Botanists contend that both plants came from the same family.  Other, however, disagree.