[Carthamine (19th century); Carthamus tinctorius]
Safflower has been cultivated since the time of Ancient Egypt for oil, seeds and color, both for dyes and to color food. Today, the largest producers are India, the United States and Mexico, primarily for oil pressed from the seeds. Seeds are often used in bird seed mixes (where the photo specimens came from) because squirrels don't like them.
Safflower Oil: Two varieties are grown for oil. One produces
oil very high in polyunsaturated fats, the other with a little more
monounsaturated fats. The variety with more monounsaturated fats predominates
as an edible oil, the other is used for paints in place of linseed oil,
particularly for white as it has no tint.
[Cardoni, Cardi, Chard (archaic), Artichoke Thistle;
These large fleshy stems of a thistle closely related to the Globe Artichoke, are widely used as a vegetable in France and Italy. The taste is complex, interesting and artichoke-like - if you have developed a taste for slightly bitter vegetables (a worthwhile taste to develop).
Cardoons are best pre-cooked before using in recipes. Cut the stalks into lengths of about 3" to 4" and remove any outer leaves (very bitter) leaving only the most tender in the center. Put in a pot and add water to cover well. For a 3 pound bunch, add to the water 2 t of salt and 1/2 t citric acid or the juice of a lemon. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain, cool and refrigerate until needed.
Ecology: Cardoons should not be planted except where
they will be carefully controlled. They are an aggressive weed with wind
dispersed seeds and have pushed out native flora in California,
Australia, Argentina and elsewhere.
The edible artichoke is the flower bud of a thistle like plant native to the Mediterranean region, the buds being harvested when mature but not yet opened. It is not known if the Globe Artichoke existed in its current form during the classical Greek and Roman periods but it was definitely available by the 12th century. It may have been developed by selective breeding from the Cardoon, but that too is uncertain.
Essentially all fresh artichokes sold in the U.S. are grown in California, and the dominant Green Globe variety is grown almost entirely in the Salinas Valley on the central coast, production centering in Castroville and Moss Landing. This crop was originally planted by Italian families in the late 1800s and these families remain rather secretive about how to grow the Green Globe commercially.
Frost Damage / Wind Burn: Artichokes hit by frost or wind will look a bit grungy. They may be sold at a lower price, or may be the only ones available at a certain time. Aside from appearance, they are generally undamaged - just pull of the tough outer leaves and trim the tips of the remaining leaves.
Health & Nutrition: Artichokes have an
antioxidant load considered among the highest for vegetables. They also
contain compounds that contribute to healthy digestion (increasing bile
flow, improving liver function and supporting beneficial gut bacteria) as
well as reducing blood cholesterol and improving the HDL/LDL ratio.
Artichoke extracts have been found useful for treating functional dyspepsia
and irritable bowel syndrome. The beneficial components are found mostly in
the flesh coating the leaves rather than in the heart.
The dominant artichoke in California, the Green Globe is grown in Monterey County on the central coast. The harvest begins in March and continues well into May with a smaller harvest in September and October. Sizes range from 18 count (jumbo) through 60 count, plus "large loose" (cocktail) and "small loose" (baby) sizes.
The Green Globe is a perennial crop and fairly expensive to produce so
attempts to replace it with lower cost annual varieties growable in
other parts of California are being made - so far with less than fully
These are not "baby" at all but mature buds that grow lower
on the plant toward the end of the season and are used quite differently
from the large artichokes. Most formerly went to marinated artichoke heart
production but that business has been moved to Spain. "Babies" are
consequently becoming more common in the markets and people are learning how
to cook them.
Thornless Artichoke -
Desert Globe Artichoke
Big Heart Artichoke
Lyon Artichoke -
[Gros Vert de Laon]
These very spherical artichokes were developed in France, but are now
grown also in California. They are very large, weighing up to two pounds each.
They are usually shipped with substantial stem because the core of the stem is
edible. The heart is quite large.
A trade name for perennial varieties recently developed in France. These
are now being grown in California and are shipped with stems as long as 16
inches. The stems contain a lot more edible flesh and less tough fiber than
the typical California artichoke. Photo