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Monday, 1 August 2016

Days of admiring and eating artichokes

Yes, I know I should have harvested my globe artichokes back in early July. I didn't, and although I've never let an artichoke plant flower before, the result is stunning.

I've been mesmerised on the allotment this week by the sheer beauty of watching these artichokes flower.

They really do make a statement don't they? Standing upright, aloof almost , ignoring their more humble thistle cousins which are also on the lottie, and posing saying "look at me" 

I 've been doing exactly that - from all angles, at different times of the day, marvelling at how they look in different lights.

Artichokes are so good natured too, not being fussy about the soil so long as it doesn't get waterlogged. I confess that I haven't mulched them with well rotted manure as you're supposed to and I've left the watering to the heavens above, but still they stand and produce.

I'm going to divide them next year....and not let them flower. After all, they're now a superfood, brimming with much so, I'm told they're better than blueberries and broccoli.

If they're easy to grow, they're so easy to cook too...I just bung them in my large stockpot filled with boiling water until they're tender...about 45 minutes or so for the larger ones, and serve with a vinaigrette dressing or melted butter.

That's where Uncle Barry comes into the story. I cannot eat an artichoke without thinking of him.

It was the year of my friend Jenny's fiftieth birthday in France. She threw a beautiful and civilised  lunch party  in a chateau in the Charente Maritme  which was followed by a riotous barbecue at her family cottage, which Iachieved legendary status for many reasons.

We took our two youngest with us, and afterwards motored over to near Limoges to stay with my husband's Uncle Barry. When I first met him, he must have been in his forties, he'd flown over for his mother's funeral...looking oh so Left Bank Professor, a velvet jacket, a cravat, Cuban heels and windswept longish dark hair tinged with grey. I adored him.

By the time he was living in Limoges, he was in his sixties, such a gently spoken man, who hesitated occasionally when speaking in English, to catch the right  word. He'd been living in France since his twenties after a stint with the Special Boat Service. Two lovely French wives and two gorgeous daughters later, he'd come to Limoges for a quiet life, to fish, to enjoy life.

And that was the night I remember....after arriving late afternoon, wine thrown into our hands , a walk and then a meal. But everything took a long time....and when he brought out the first course about 10 pm, we were all ravenous.

He placed the artichokes on the table, with a bowl of melted butter and one of vinaigrette. My boys looked  at their plates...I'd never served them artichokes before.

Barry taught them how to eat them...."carefully take off each leaf scale, one by one yes that's can't rush this. Dip each one in the dressing...., slowly now..."

All I can say is they tried, but didn't like the artichokes. Barry was sorrowful...."they're English" as if that explained everything.

And I suppose it did, for the next course there was a huge vat of curry, which, being English , we love and adore and which we devoured. By now it was midnight, and the boys drifted off to bed.

I got up too, to take the plates back into the kitchen before toddling off to bed, but then Barry appeared with a tray .Three iced glasses and a bottle of  frozen vodka , a nightcap to toast our visit.

At 2am, we were still sitting out under the stars....somewhat worse for wear, but chatting and laughing about everything and anything, including a gentle reminder, that artichokes are good for you, and the boys should really learn to like them.

The following night, artichokes didn't appear on the menu, but another huge vat of curry did.........



  1. I like your Uncle Barry! And those artichoke flowers are amazing. Like huge furry thistles.

    1. Yes, Barry was a real darling...I was so fond of him. And so pleased you like the artichoke flowers...Worth leaving for on e season, to admire them!