Today’s Expert: Ocean Mist Farms
Welcome to the 13th edition of our featured series, titled “Ask the Produce Expert.” In this series, we feature one of our partner growers, suppliers or commodity boards, and ask them farming industry-related questions that will help us, as consumers, become more educated about the food that we purchase and eat on a daily basis. If you have a question that you want answered by an industry expert – it’s as easy tweeting us or posting your question on The Produce Mom Facebook page! The Produce Mom family of partners are eager to answer your questions!
Ocean Mist Farms is the largest grower of fresh artichokes in the United States. They grow artichokes year-round in three ideal growing areas of California: Castroville, Oxnard and Coachella plus Baja, Mexico. Since 1924, family owned and operated Ocean Mist Farms has provided multiple generations of customers with the freshest artichokes and vegetables. Called the California Artichoke & Vegetable Growers Corporation until 1995, Ocean Mist Farms is headquartered in Castroville, California — “The Artichoke Capitol of the World.”
In this edition of Ask the Produce Expert, Chris Drew, Ocean Mist Farms Production Manager, is our featured expert. Chris’ interest in agriculture began on a 1000-acre family farm that his grandfather operated in central Illinois—producing corn and soybeans. After graduating high school, Chris got his first agricultural job at Headstart Nursery, a vegetable transplanting operation, where he worked his way up from loading trailers and performing irrigation maintenance to managing production and greenhouse operations. While working, Chris attended classes at Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo and earned a Bachelors degree in Crop Science. Drew began working for Ocean Mist Farms in 2004. Chris describes himself as a backyard farmer on a large scale. “My heart has always been in production—working in the fields with a crew from planting to harvest.”
Chris is here to share his knowledge and expertise on artichokes, a produce item that intimidates many consumers. Nearly everyone loves the taste of an artichoke, but many shy away from purchasing fresh artichokes because they don’t know how to prepare them. Chris is going to take the mystery out of prepping, preparing, and eating artichokes!
Welcome, Chris! Many people are intimidated by using fresh artichokes. Why is that?
Many people do not know how to prepare an artichoke for cooking; once they learn they are no longer intimidated.
How do I prep an artichoke?
It’s very easy to prep an artichoke. We call it “top and tail.”
With a sharp, serrated kitchen knife, cut about one inch from the top of the artichoke.
Then, trim the stem about one half inch or remove the stem if you need it to “sit up” on a plate for stuffing or filling. Remember, the artichoke stem is a continuation of the edible & delicious heart, so don’t cut it off unless you need you to.
For restaurant-style presentation of artichokes, take any scissors or kitchen shears and snip off the thorns on the tip of the artichoke petals (Note: this step is optional, as the thorns tend to soften with cooking).
Many cooks like to also rub the cut portion of the artichoke with the juice of a fresh lemon to prevent it from browning. Again, this step is optional.
Lastly, spread open the petals slightly to allow any seasoning you may use to fall in between the artichoke petals for flavor.
Artichokes can be steamed, baked, microwaved and finished on the grill. WE have information on how to prepare artichokes on our artichoke exclusive website, allaboutartichokes.com.
Can I prep & cook artichokes ahead of time, to be used later?
Cooked artichokes should be cooled completely and covered before you put them in the refrigerator, where they can keep for up to a week. Artichokes are great for cooking the night before. Served chilled or reheat in the oven or microwave before serving, stuffing, grilling or using as an ingredient in another dish.
How do I eat an artichoke?
Many people have never experienced the joy of eating an artichoke because they never learned how to eat one. The good news is that eating an artichoke is easy and definitely something to be savored slowly. We encourage you to enjoy artichokes as a social food because they are so fun to share!
Start by pulling off one of the outermost petals. Dip the base of the petal into your favorite sauce. Many people prefer melted butter or mayonnaise, but there is no limit to the types of dips or sauces that can be used.
Pull the petal through your slightly clenched teeth to remove the soft, tender flesh at the bottom of the petal. Discard remainder (you’ll want to have an empty bowl ready in which to drop them).
Continue until all petals have been removed. You will now have arrived at one of the great culinary rewards: the heart! If the fuzzy choke guarding the heart hasn’t been removed (restaurants will do this), scoop it out with a spoon. Cut the remaining artichoke heart into bite-sized pieces, dip and enjoy.
We have this handy gifographic, which is a great visual on how to eat an artichoke.
What should I look for when selecting artichokes?
Pick up the artichokes and feel the weight. You’re searching for those that feel the heaviest and firmest. Now examine the exterior. You’re looking for globes that have a healthy green color, compact center leaves and an overall look of freshness (not dehydrated).
During the winter months (December to February), if you see artichokes with a blotchy colored or white-blistered exterior appearance, be sure to try one. The appearance of these artichokes is the result of exposure to colder temperatures and frost. We call these “Frost-Kissed” artichokes and they are more tender and have a flavorful, nutty zest.
How should I store artichokes?
Before you get to the fun stage of cooking and eating artichokes, make sure the globes are in the freshest state possible. For refrigerated storage, slice a dime width off of the artichoke stem, sprinkle with water and refrigerate in an airtight plastic bag. It’s best to cook them within five to seven days after purchase.
When are artichokes in season? What time of year should I look for them at my grocer?
Artichokes are produced and readily accessible year-round; though peak harvesting season for the Heirloom, the Castroville Green Globe, variety is during the months of March, April, and May. An artichoke thrives in foggy, cool-coastal climates and requires regular nutrients through watering and feeding. About 99% of all North American artichokes are harvested in California, with Ocean Mist Farms being the largest grower. Ocean Mist Farms’ proprietary Globe variety produces during the times of year that the Heirloom variety is not in peak production: May through the following March. So, the season for artichoke is in a sense, all seasons.
How do I wash an artichoke?
Rinse the artichoke well under cold water. If you have one handy, we even recommend using any soft kitchen brush and giving the choke a quick brush down to remove the natural, light film an artichoke produces while growing. This can give the choke a bitter taste if not removed.
Do you have any favorite artichoke recipes to share?
An artichoke isn’t just a side dish any more! The following ideas offer new ways healthy, fresh artichokes can take the place of high-calorie foods and even stretch your food budget.
Instead of high-calorie tortilla chips, use cooked artichoke leaves as dippers.
- Arrange cooked artichoke petals in baskets just like chips. Add dry barbeque seasoning or grated parmesan cheese for flavored leaves.
- Dip petals into salsas, guacamole and any other of your favorite dips.
- Artichoke petals can be spread out on a serving platter and topped with refried beans and garnished with green onions, tomatoes and sour cream for low calorie nachos.
Using an already cooked artichoke, spread open the petals to expose the smaller, tender center petals. Remove the center of cooked Artichokes by twisting clockwise to expose the fuzzy choke. Using a spoon, scoop out the fuzzy center.
- Fill artichokes with hot chili and top with a bit of cheese for a complete healthy meal. Use the petals to dip into the chili.
- Fill artichoke with hearty soups or stews, or for a quick summer time meal, fill each artichoke with cold chicken or tuna salad. Use the petals as scoopers instead of bread or crackers.
MAKING TWO TO FOUR SERVINGS FROM ONE ARTICHOKE
No matter what the size, you can make several servings out of one whole, fresh artichoke.
- Cut the cooked artichoke in half or quarters.
- Either way gives each serving a piece of the prized artichoke heart.
- For a halved, cooked artichoke, try filling it with a preferred dip to impress your guests.
- Halved, cooked artichokes are perfect for finishing off on the grill.
- Quartered artichokes are also a crowd pleaser.
STEMS AND HEARTS
- Slice hearts and add to spicy Asian sautés and stir-fries.
- Slice stem into “coins,” deep fry with batter until crispy and dip in mayonnaise.
- Slice and add as a tasty filling to your favorite omelet or quiche.
- Use to create artichoke dip, one of the world’s greatest appetizers (and guilt-free pleasures!).
Want more inspiration?
Check out the entire Ocean Mist Farms Recipe Collection!
Do you have any tips on how to introduce the artichoke to kids?
Artichokes for babies and young toddlers
Remove the ‘meaty’ part of the artichoke, referred to as the ‘heart’. Purée, or chop into small pieces, depending on the stage of solids he/she is at.
Artichokes for older toddlers
Rinse cooked artichoke under water so it’s cool enough handle. Show the child how to pull off each curved outer leaf individually, and use his or her teeth to scrape off the tender flesh (the part that was closest to the stem). Always closely supervise toddlers to ensure they don’t try to eat the tough, inedible part; this could be a choking risk.
Are there any kid-friendly recipes that use artichokes?
Try making the heart into a dip, slicing on a pizza or adding them to a tomato-based pasta sauce.
That concludes the 13th edition of our Ask the Produce Expert series! A big thank you to Chris Drew for sharing his expertise and insight! Learn more about Ocean Mist Farms and their dedication to growing quality produce using environmentally-friendly & sustainable methods in the video below. Also, be sure to visit allaboutartichokes.com for recipes, artichoke tips, and much more!