02 November 2010

Artichokes For All – DeNoble's Vendor Spotlight

DeNoble's violet artichokes

There are some people in the world who know a whole lot about things most people don’t.

Patreece DeNoble talks about artichokes the way Dead Heads talk about Jerry: with excitement and unwavering passion. Which is a lot to say about the frequently misunderstood, edible member of the thistle family.

As a child, I remember wondering why someone would want to eat something that nature spent so much energy protecting. If you have ever seen an artichoke plant before, you know what I’m talking about. The plants themselves can be huge, with long spiky leaves that look like serrated, medieval swords. Out of the center of the plant grows a tall, thistle-like flower that if left to bloom, will produce a crown of bright blue and purple tendrils. The plant itself looks like something only a magician or royalty could eat.

It wasn’t until later in life, after bowls full of melted butter and scattered plates of discarded leaves, that I realized the glory of freshly steamed artichokes. Like pomegranates, hazelnuts, and coconuts, I’ve discovered that sometimes, the trickier it is to get to, the more delicious the reward on the inside can be. In the case of a plum-colored Italian artichoke, I’m talking all about heart.

DeNoble’s Farm has been growing some of the most tender, rich, and down-right tasty artichokes in Oregon for over a dozen years. Patreece has come to be known as “The Artichoke Lady” at the market, and raised her two children with other market vendors acting as a second family. So much so, that when her youngest child, Chandler, was too young to get up for market, Patreece would make a bed under her vendor’s table for him to nap under until it was daylight.

A place where he could have artichoke dreams…

While her kids are now in their teens, and Patreece no longer needs to set up a under-the-table bed, DeNoble’s Farm still holds true to the same ideals that got them growing in the first place: high quality, sustainable produce for all.

Artichokes were the first crop DeNoble’s Farm started growing, and still shine as their number one seller. By practicing sustainable crop rotations and staggered planting, DeNoble’s is able to have an incredible growing season, extending from early May through November. But they aren’t just growing artichokes anymore.

DeNoble’s Farm has expanded their produce variety, growing gorgeous carrots, bright green Brussels sprouts, and coastal broccoli that can’t be beat. And if that wasn’t enough, Patreece and her husband Tom are even toying with the idea of offering a CSA membership starting as early as next year.

DeNoble’s produce is grown without the use of spray or pesticides. And remarkably, every single artichoke that DeNoble’s sells was planted, grown, and picked by someone in the DeNoble family. Patreece DeNoble says they have tried to train people how to pick artichokes at their peak in the past, but have never been satisfied with the quality of their results. That means that the artichokes you buy at DeNoble’s booth are being sold to you, literally, by the hands that grew them. She even gave us some cooking tips for the end of this year’s harvest.

If you haven’t ever grilled artichokes before, now is your chance. Just slice the artichoke down the middle into two equal halves. Scoop out the fuzzy center and par-boil for about 10 minutes. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with seasonings prior to grilling. Place on a hot grill and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.

Grilling not your thing?  Then add a twist to your traditional steamed artichoke by adding a few cloves of chopped garlic to the steaming water. The spicy bite of the garlic combined with the sweetness of the artichoke is a match made in heaven. Or if you’re not feeling like branching out quite yet, don’t worry, just eat those artichokes any way you feel like it and sing the praises of edible thistles all along the way.

That’s certainly what royalty would do.

Nicolette Smith