Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Today's Poem

Today's poem was right up my alley

The First Artichoke

by Diane Lockward

Though everyone said no one could grow
artichokes in New Jersey, my father
planted the seeds and they grew one magnificent
artichoke, late-season, long after the squash,
tomatoes, and zucchini.

It was the derelict in my father's garden,
little Buddha of a vegetable, pinecone gone awry.
It was as strange as a bony-plated armadillo.

My mother prepared the artichoke as if preparing
a miracle. She snipped the bronzy winter-kissed tips
mashed breadcrumbs, oregano, parmesan, garlic,
and lemon, stuffed the mush between the leaves,
baked, then placed the artichoke on the table.
This, she said, was food we could eat with our fingers.

When I hesitated, my father spoke of beautiful Cynara,
who'd loved her mother more than she'd loved Zeus.
In anger, the god transformed her
into an artichoke. And in 1949 Marilyn Monroe
had been crowned California's first Artichoke Queen.

I peeled off a leaf like my father did,
dipped it in melted butter, and with my teeth
scraped and sucked the nut-flavored slimy stuff.
We piled up the inedible parts, skeletons
of leaves and purple prickles.

Piece by piece, the artichoke came apart,
the way we would in 1959, the year the flowerbuds
of the artichokes in my father's garden bloomed
without him, their blossoms seven inches wide
and violet-blue as bruises.

But first we had that miracle on our table.
We peeled and peeled, a vegetable striptease,
and worked our way deeper and deeper,
down to the small filet of delectable heart.

"The First Artichoke" by Diane Lockward


Thomas said...

I love this poem, Leslie! I can't wait to try my hand at growing artichokes next year. Out of curiously, was this your first artichoke of the year? When do yours generally mature and how many do you get per plant? I'm not counting an a big artichoke harvest next year.

Leslie said...

Thomas, This is not a rewarding sport. It's a little like CHarlie Brown, Lucy and the football ... that said, I have been working on two new varieties ... Northern Star and Emerald both from Peters seeds. They are designed for northern climates with no guarantees. From those plants I got not one choke nor did they over winter. This year I went back to Green Globe Improved from Reimer Seeds and only one of my five plants produced chokes. I will try to over winter a few of those plants. I have seen Green Globes that overwinter successfully in VA ... at Jefferson's Monticello actually.

I have been at this for 5 years now trying to both harvest and over winter these successfully. I have used wall-o-waters, glass hothouse surrounded by hay bales, hay mulch, pine needle mulch ... none of it has worked. I figure if I can get a plant to overwinter just once, it will establish deep enough roots that it will be hardier the next season. I think your hoops are a possible solution for me.

I know how much your own gardening is linked to your own Father's love of it. Did he ever grow artichokes?

Thomas said...

He never grew artichokes...In fact, I'm pretty sure my father never had one in his life. Do you read any of Eliot Coleman's books? He grows green globe artichokes commercially each year. I think he starts his seeds VERY early under protection. I am planning on starting my seeds in February under grow lamps and then expose them to the protected environment and lower temperatures of the hoop house in March and April, which is supposed to increase there chances of producing the first year.

Next winter, I'll try to overwinter them in one of my hoop houses with also an interior layer of fabric row cover added. Let's compare notes next year. Hopefully together, we can solve this one. I know that Johnny's Selected Seeds has claimed to successfully overwinter theirs in Zone 5.