April is artichoke season and there is something magical about seeing purple artichokes standing at attention, ready for harvest. You don’t have to be a farmer to appreciate the bountiful crop before you, or an artist to appreciate the sheer beauty.
A couple of food bloggers and I had the privilege to visit Steve Jordan, president and owner of Baroda Farms in Lompoc, CA recently, a perennial artichoke grower and developer 29 different varieties. Special thanks to Frieda’s Produce, the distributor of these spectacular artichokes, for a unique private tour.
Our gracious host led us through the fields, telling us the rich history of his farm, and his constant quest for the best artichoke flavor.
Mr. Jordan cut open a freshly picked Sangria Artichoke for us to taste. Gorgeously reddish outside, it is even more beautiful inside.
None of us had eaten an artichoke raw before, so we curiously bit into the end of a leaf. It was crunchy and slightly nutty.
We followed Mr. Jordan like he was the pied piper… wide-eyed and amazed at the beauty of every artichoke.
We took endless pictures.
Baroda Farms has a laboratory for artichoke research and plant tissue culturing. Mr. Jordan works with French and Italian breeders to develop new artichoke varieties for the U.S. market. They have five patents that were licensed from a breeder in France, one from a breeder in Italy, and three more they discovered are patent pending.
We saw so many unique varieties it was hard to keep track of each one. Mr. Jordan explains, “Since we do extensive research… We currently produce artichokes from 7 genotypes. But literally, we number each type and it is over 500.” Wow!
We were able to see the different seedlings in development.
From seedling to harvest, Baroda Farms takes special care in the handling of their artichokes.
We watched harvesters cut each artichoke by hand. They were packaged right in the field, ready for market. Baroda Farms grow and ship about 100,000 boxes of artichokes annually.
Keep your eye out in the market for Baroda Farms’ Sangria Artichokes. They are dark red with meaty leaves and a nutty flavor, and are available in So. California at Ralph’s and Gelson’s. To watch a video on the different varieties and how to eat an artichoke CLICK HERE.
We came home from our foodie road trip with a few extra-special guests on board. I will post the grilling of this bad boy soon.
Until then, hope you enjoyed our farm trip as much as these happy food bloggers did. This panoramic photo was taken by Steve Jordan, who doesn’t get tired of snapping shots in his picturesque artichoke fields.
Here is our version of the same shot. Artichoke “selfie” by Christina of Christina’s Cucina.
Quote of the Day
“Eating an artichoke is like getting to know someone really well.” – Willi Hastings
“Visiting an artichoke farm makes you want to get to know the artichoke even more.” – Cathy Arkle
…and then, she paused for thought.