Monday, November 14, 2011

On feral artichokes

It has come to my attention that in 1832, when Darwin visited Argentina and Uruguay, he found hundreds of square miles of pampas overrun with feral artichokes. And he lamented this fact - pointing out that the feral artichoke precluded anything else from growing, say feral clover, or feral dahlias, or feral lavender.
Unlike our garden in Hastings.
A couple of years ago CSB noted that Jefferson had artichokes in his garden. In Virginia, 315 miles southwest of here. Not to mention an altogether different growing zone.
CSB loves artichokes and his father was a Virginian, two very good reasons for us to grow them here. He acquired heirloom Jeffersonian seeds and planted them. We got leaves but no artichokes. The next year he did some research, found seeds for northern artichokes and started them in February in a cold frame constructed with glass doors salvaged from a historic home that was being demolished in order to built a Pilates studio. The seedlings grew. In late spring he planted all fifty seedlings in our garden, in various places in the garden. He planted seedlings in several urns. They grew. V e r y s l o w l y. We harvested eleven artichokes this past summer. We savored them. We admired swaths of artichoke foliage with no fruit.
Darwin does not say if he ever ate any feral artichokes. How does a feral artichoke differ from a cultivated artichoke? Are its leaves sharper and pointier? Does its heart beat more savagely?

Today we celebrate the feast of Bd John Liccio. (1400-1511). After his mother died in childbirth his father fed the infant crushed pomegranate arils. Pomegranates are another plant not native to the Americas; they came from Persia and spread to the Mediterranean early enough to be an integral part of the Persephone myth; they were introduced to South America by Spanish settlers in the 18th century. I have yet to hear anything about feral pomegranates. As for John Liccio, the busybody neighbor objected to this diet for an infant. But John’s father persisted, and the saint went on to have a very long life full of miracles, such as curing people whose heads were crushed, and causing paralysis in the hand of a would-be thief. He lived for 111 years.
If the next time you see Cherished & Superlative-in-all-Ways Grandson and note how pink his cherubic infant lips are, perhaps that will be a result of pomegranate juice.

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