In praise of the artichoke

globe artichokes

Having forgotten to buy my twelve year old son a birthday present, imagine my pride and relief when he said “that’s alright dad, you can just give me six jars of your preserved artichoke hearts”. Globe artichokes came bottom in our kids’ veg challenge questionnaire this summer, with only 16% of children having eaten them. Predictably, carrots were favourite, followed by sweetcorn and broccoli. Again, not surprisingly, children of Riverford customers ate a wider range of ‘weird’ veg than those of non customers. It’s seldom cool to be weird, but most children who try artichokes love them, so I plan to persist.

After twenty years of growing globe artichokes, I think I might have finally grown a crop that will turn a profit. I planted this year’s crop on a good field right outside the Field Kitchen where they have been watered, weeded and mollycoddled every time I needed to escape from the office; the result is by far the best crop I have ever grown both in quantity and quality. We had intended to put them just on the extras list but some will go in the boxes as well.

My apologies to those of you who don’t share my enthusiasm for artichokes. Eating them is a performance (an enjoyable one I hope) and brings people together, but with three quarters of the head ending up on the compost heap this is not a rational way to eat. But then food is about much more than efficient feeding. Our chef Jane shares my love of artichokes (and has even paid me the rare compliment of saying that mine are the best) so there are lots of recipes on the website. I recommend you start with plain boiled artichokes with melted butter or vinaigrette.

organic fortnight 3rd-17th september
The Soil Association’s annual celebration of all things organic is here. This year’s theme is Choose Organic Every Day. In our latest calculations our vegboxes worked out on average 20% cheaper than supermarket organic veg (the best performing box was 44% cheaper). I hope this gives some reassurance that organic isn’t just for the wealthy: it can be an affordable everyday purchase.

Guy Watson from Riverford in Devon

2 responses to “In praise of the artichoke

  1. I love artichokes but they’re an occasional treat for me as my favourite way to eat them is with a white wine, butter and parmesan sauce. I just steam the artichokes and dip the leaves in the sauce, so good but a heart attack on a plate.

    I won’t get my next veg box for a while as I’m going overseas, but I’m definitely ordering some artichokes!

  2. We’ve been getting a Riverford box for about ten years, so I think it’s fair to say that we’re generally happy with the service offered, and I’m not just commenting here to take pot shots at you.

    I think your comparison with supermarkets is misleading. I’m happy to read any facts you have when comparing Riverford to supermarkets – home delivery, CO2, time from field to door. I’m ready to believe that on ave the boxes are 20% cheaper than supermarket organic too, but to imply that this puts them on a comparable level to non-organic is a leap of faith to far for me. Bear in mind that we customers have no control over what produce we receive, and the portion sizes listed in the weekly box contents is far from transparent (what weight of potatoes is in a box? do all boxes have the same weight of potatoes?).

    Portion sizes vary from week to week too (it’s a bit unfortunate that we received a small butternut squash along with your comparison comment), and some produce is just unused – I’m thinking artichokes I’m afraid :-), all of which makes comparison difficult.

    I think a lot of people in these more difficult times will be wondering if it might not be a good idea to save a few hundred quid a year and switch to non-organic; there’s always the nagging doubt that it might not be worth the extra money. I also think that the Riverford/customer relationship depends very much on trust. Your “reassuring” conclusion:

    “I hope this gives some reassurance that organic isn’t just for the wealthy: it can be an affordable everyday purchase.”

    is a jump in reasoning too far for me, and looks more like marketing.


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