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Jan 11, 2012 07:41 PM

First Artichokes Grown in U.S.?

This duscussion started on a home cooking thread and i thought it belonged here. These posts were between myself and hazelhurst. hope youall will jump in. Food History!

I find it remarkable that your father (if I have the relations right) never had artichokes in New Orleans. They were very popular prior to WWII and most came from Plaquemines Parish in the 1920's and before. I know my mother was eating omelettes in NOLA in the 1930s..she often ordered them at the old line restaurants.
By hazelhurst on Jan 9, 2012 04:26 PM
hazel, that's so interesting.i didn't realize artichokes were grown in LA.; i always thought they were just a CA crop back then. Maybe because my dad's family was very poor? he told us about going to school w/ his lunch of a baguette hollowed out and 'filled' w/ caro syrup. So nutritional.....

The omelets don't surprise me at all, w/ the Fr heritage there.
By opinionatedchef on Jan 9, 2012 07:24 PM
I was always told that Plaquemines Parish was the first place in the New World to grow them. The farms died out a little before WW II but I used to get some from a guy across from Pointe a la Hache years ago. The vegetable truck by the Seminary on Carrolton (a/k/a "The Priest Factory") claimed that his were from down there and that was int he 1970's/80's.

By hazelhurst about 6 hours ago
my dad was born in NOLA in1922. wouldn't it be fascinating to find a local artichoke tradition in the local food there from the early 20th c.? sounds like a great research article for the food section of the NO paper. artichokes etouffee?! here's what i found after a bit of googling. can't find anything that claims 'the very FIRST artichokes grown in america..." but maybe further research....

The Dutch introduced artichokes to England, where they grew in Henry VIII's garden at Newhall in 1530. They were brought to the United States in the 19th century, to Louisiana by French immigrants and to California by Spanish immigrants. The name has originated from the Arabic al-kharshof, through a northern Italian dialect word, articiocco.[8] Revised March 2011. ------------------------------------------------
Native to the Mediterranean region, artichokes were brought to the United States in the 1800s and first grown in Louisiana by French immigrants and in California by the Spanish. Today artichokes are grown almost exclusively in California, which accounts for more than 99 percent of national production.

hey hazel! i have just found a usda 1920 report about artichokes in the Pla..... county!
By opinionatedchef about 5 hours ago

Artichoke etouffee would be a helluva stretch since the Cajun world never really got into New Orleans until after WW II and etouffee itself did not come out of the swamps until about 1940. But it is worth a try. Kinda fusion cooking in a way.

There is a crawfish Yvonne that has artichokes in it. Was invented in the 1970's.

That, as the kids used to say, is "way cool." I've always wanted to grow my own artichokes and now I know some of the blight I must confront. Thanks!
By hazelhurst
so hazel, i don't understand . what does this mean?
<the Cajun world never really got into New Orleans until after WW II and etouffee itself did not come out of the swamps until about 1940.>

that cajun food didn't come into NO until post WWII? but my dad grew up eating red beans and rice, and gumbo.? is there a reference book you're using? i'd enjoy reading more of this history.

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    1. re: paulj

      paul, as usual, you turn up some great info! i hope maybe hazelhurst or you or i or another CH will find some info on artichoke growing in LA. thnx much.

    2. You may be interested to know that the original Japanese word for artichoke is "cho-sen azami" which translates as "Korean thistle." However, as far as I know they are not grown in Japan, and probably not in Korea either.

      1. Well, we are automatically on a blurry divide here. I have never seen the fumbo issue resolved. It was generally conceded that there was a country gumbo and a city one, the latter usually being though of as more refined. I do not know if the sassafrass leaves ("file") was taught to both Cajuns and Orleanians by local idians or whether it bled from City to country or the other way around. Red Beand and Rice are usually considered to be a New Orleans item but certainly it got arouns: everyone can use beans, especially in rural areas where they will keep over the time between shipments. You do see RB&R in cajun country but I do not recall it from the 1960's when I first started hunting over there.

        Remember, too, the difficulty of getting to Acadiana in the old days. From new Orleans you went down Hwy 90 to Morgan City, then back up to Lafayette, then over towards Lake Charles. It was a helluva trip. People left on Thursday. The only other option was to go throught Baton Rouge to Opelousas, Eunice and Kinder, then down HWY 165. This isolation allowed for slow change only. (Before the Interstate, people going to Pat's Restaurant in Henderson drove HWY 190 to Krotz Springs, then down the road on top of the levee.)

        Grillades is another wild card in this. Cajun grillades are variations on pork, often marinated, with the smothering of vegetables, served on rice. New Orleans grillades are veal or beef (usually) in a more complicated gravy, served on grits. They are just variations on grilled or fried meat so you get the same name but a different product. (an exception here is New Iberia..their grillades and their turtle soup are New Orleans,,,I suspect this was due to the waterborne traffic between the cities..much easier than land. although HWY 90 certainly made New Iberia eaiser to get to.)

        You'll notice, though, that you do not see crawfish recipes out of New Orleans until very late. The earliest I have found in a major book is Baton Rouge's "River Road Recipes" although Antoine's had a Crawfish Cardinale for awhile (but in a french spelling.."Crayfish" as a pronounciation held on for a long time: See "The Little Foxes") But except for people who went out and got the things themselves, crawfish just wasn't around much in New Orleans until the 1960's and it was not common on menus until the 1970's. It isn't that it was unheard of, but I can't think of more than a few places that had it. You could get an etouffee in the old line restaurants in the early '70s but it was not on the menu: the waiter whipped it up in the kitchen. On the other hand, I'd have been shocked (but delighted) to see a fresh artichoke in Acadiana in the 1960's. A roommate of mine from Lake Charles had never seen one and that was in 1976. (IN a similar vein, I once cooked some for a girl I knew from Mississippi....she had no idea what a real one tasted like having seen only the canned impersonations. She also did not cotton right away to my home made mayonnaise, not recognizing it through the fog of jarred stuff, which last does have its place but not on cold fish.)

        As near as I can figure out, fresh Plaquemines Parish artichokes were gobbled up by the City almost exclusively. I know, from parole evidence, that they were available in Jackson Mississippi in the 1920's but I gather this was an exception.

        That ought to be enough to get the discussion moving along.

        6 Replies
        1. re: hazelhurst

          hazel, my jaw is on the ground. really. i hope you are a writer/teacher because you certainly have a well of knowledge.

          do tell- what in heck is 'parole evidence'? you def have me stumped there.

          dad sometimes mentioned 'the bridge over Lake Ponchartrain'; that didn't go to cajun country, and before the 40's?

          p.s. OT but one of my fav memories of NOLA from my only visit, in 1980, was a wonderful unique place on a bend in St Charles Ave- called The Camellia Grill, or Magnolia... Is that still there in that great Tara-like Greek Revival columned house? thnx.

          1. re: opinionatedchef

            Sorry about stumping you: I was just playing fast-and-loose. Parole evidence is a principle of contract law and is considered inadmissable to change a written contract (I sell you a car for $1,000 but I tell you you only have to pay $500. The court looks at the document, not at what I said although I may have said it. So you owe $1,000 if I want to be tough about it). here I was just having fun saying "I can't really prove it but I was told this" which I was, by my grandmother who lived in Jackson at that time.

            The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway's first section opened in 1956, the second bridge in 1969. THe Mississippi Bridge (first one) opened in 1958 and the Huey P Long dates to 1935. So, between the 1930's and about 1960, the only more-or-less direct land access to The City was Airline Highway (from Baton Rouge) and Hwy 90. And the 80 miles to Baton Rouge may as well have been 1,000 for all the differences between the two places. I knew a man who lived in Oakdale, in the Anglo territory near the western leg of the Acadian triangle, who was sent by train to the dentist in New Orleans and he said it was like visiting a foreign country.

            I noticed in that Argiculture document you found that there were artichoke farmers outside Plaquemines and I can imagine that they shipped by rail to New Orleans. There might have been a demand in Baton Rouge prior to the Northern Influx of the refinery workers who changed the culture in that town immensely. You'd think that the Italian influence would have been noticeable but my Lake Charles friend is from a small Italian enclave in Calcasieu Parish and, as I said, had never seen a fresh artichoke until he was 18 or 20 years old. This is not to deny the Italian influence in New Orleans....the stuffed artichoke is a testament to that (although you can find stuffed artichokes in Provence so some of the French population of New Orleans may have been aware of them).

            Camellia Grill is the place you are asking about. re-opened after Katrina and now has a satellite operation in the Quarter. Traditionalist that I am, I have not been to the new one.

            1. re: hazelhurst

              well, wowwwww yet again! 'the huey long' of 1935 refers to a bridge over Lake Pontch? (because my dad left NO in 1939 to go the the Naval Academy, and never lived there again.)

              Did the Tara building survive katrina? is camellia still there or only in the qrtr now?

              good thing you explained parole evidence. i would still be out here paddling..........

              1. re: opinionatedchef

                The "Huey P" as it is known is a RR/car bridge across the Mississippi RIver. The Tara building made it through and was officiall re-opened by legendary waiter Harry (retired and since died)

                1. re: opinionatedchef

                  The Huey P. Long bridge, as defined by Hazelhurst, goes from West of New Orleans proper, to the West Bank of the Mississippi River, and was a combo bride, in that it was both a railway, and auto bridge. For many years, it was the longest railway bridge in the world, as the grade for a a railroad was much shallower, than for an automobile. That took traffic across the Mississippi River, from New Orleans (East Bank) over to the West Bank, and down to the "bayou country," via US 90.

                  Interesting factoid: though built in the 1930's, and for both railroad, and autos of the era, a survey was done in the 70's, and it was discovered that the bridge was engineered, such that it could handle 4 lanes of contemporary auto traffic, in each direction, plus one additional railroad "lane." Where as the Mississippi River bridge in New Orleans (much newer), could barely handle an addition of a fence. That is one reason why there was a second New Orleans bridge was recommended. The engineering of that time, was not adequate to add even the fencing, much less another lane, or two.

                  Now, we are across the River, up in Jefferson Parish, and have been so, since the 1930's,and much of South Louisiana was available to us. That was when the food stuffs of South Louisiana began really flowing into The City. Before, it was all by boat, and those were not really THAT fast, so items could spoil. Come the trains, and the Huey P, and real South Louisiana food came into being.


            2. re: hazelhurst

              Well, actually one took a steamer upriver to a port, and then portaged to a point, where they could take a boat (the actual boat would depend on the exact waterway), and then head down (usually) to the Cajun territories.

              Once there, one dined on what was available, and considering the land, that might be highly limited.

              Historically, it was quite some time, before the bayou residents began actually selling the produce. Before, it was to exist, and not for commercial purposes.

              Many ask how Cajun cuisine came into existence. Well, it was to allow one to eat the food items, that were available, and some were not really tasty, without some work. Now, we see those preps, those spices, and such, even with more readily available items.

              Why were there more pork dishes, than beef? Well, considering the land, in South Louisiana, pigs did much better, than did cattle.

              Why were there intricate soup/gumbo dishes, than straight preps? That was because the items, say sheepshead, or similar fishes, were available, while other species were not. To make them tasty, some work was required.

              Artichokes? I cannot answer, but in our MS household, they were almost like pineapples - special.


            3. Create TV has played a series by a LA cook (Folse) tracing the various ethnic roots of the state's cooking. He may also have book on the subject.

              I'm under the impression that there were 2 French settlements. There was an initial one that gave New Orleans its name (and French Quarter), and there was a later one of refugees from Arcadia (Canada). Assuming artichokes don't grow well in the far NE, I doubt if the Arcadians brought it with them. The is also a Spanish influence in the area. Most modern canned artichoke hearts come from Spain.

              1 Reply
              1. re: paulj

                paul, you continue to amaze me. i'm requesting that book now from my local library. Yes, artichokes are just marginally hardy in VA. so the LA. source was French settlers from France, (came to France w/ Cath de Medici from Italy)>> all this from websources linked above in this thread. I'm learning alot of history! thnx again.

                the thing i now can't figure out is- why " artichokes didn't catch on in 18th c.LA" (or 18th c. CA. w/ Spanish settlers)- as one source claimed, if there was a concentrated population of Fr. settlers? Maybe when the settlers came over, artichokes were only eaten by the Fr. wealthy, so the French settler population hadn't really been exposed to them...... The same source says they didn't 'catch on' until they were grown by Ital immigrants in the early 20's.

              2. Recent readings of Canadian and French histories indicates the majority in Canada came from Brittany and Normandy. Some Basques. The Languedoc and Provence french (artichoke growers) seemed to stay in the Med with sojournes to the Caribbean. More money to be made growing sugar than chokes.

                Possible that the diaspora from Haiti to Louisiana brought the cultivation and appreciation of artichokes. Just my opinion.

                7 Replies
                1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                  Just a guess, but I'd think the Sicilian/Italian influx in the 19th Century would account for their popularity by the 20th Century. They were certainly on the old restaurant's menus. Just a plain artichoke (with hollandaise) was one of my first favorite items at Galatoire's when I was a kid. My grandmother, who was 18 years old in 1900, claimed she did not remember not being able to get them. (as you might guess, I love the things and they have been a great part of my life.)

                  1. re: hazelhurst

                    According to this, most of the Italians migrating to California, starting with the gold rush, were Ligurian. Still commercial success of artichoke growing in the Castroville area might have coincided with the influx of Sicilian Italians back east. I assume that long distance produce shipping had been established by then.

                    I suspect artichokes do better in mediterranean climate of California than the hotter, more humid Louisiana. They will grow in Seattle, and even survive several winters, but they are more for show than produce.

                    1. re: paulj

                      I'm sure year-round production is easier in California...but that guy in Pointe-a-la-Hache yeas ago had a pretty decent stand and I remember seeing holes in his line of bushes where he was bringing new ones in.. Used to get them in the spring. He was just doing it for fun and extra income..mostly an orange grower as I recall.

                      Wanna have some fun? Look up Ciro Terranova, "The Artichoke King" of New York. LaGuardia declared it illegal to buy or, I think, even possess artichokes at one point.

                      1. re: hazelhurst

                        For completeness, here's the bit from the other thread about artichokes at Delmonicos:
                        "HH, I'd be intrigued as to how the LA parish was the first place in the New World to grow artichokes. From whence did they come? My understanding is that the Delmonico Bros. brought over artichoke, eggplant and fennel from Switzerland for their famous NY restaurant in the 1840's and were first growing all three out on Long Island, NY. If you have better documentation on this, I'm all ears.
                        CP" Chefpaulo

                        "This history of Delmonicos mentions both artichokes and the LI farm
               (link corrected)

                        1. re: paulj

                          Yeah, I saw that. The link doesn't work for me on this post, though.

                          The claim made me think of other restaurant assertions. Commander's Palace now says their turtle soup takes "three says to make." Gage &Tollner in Brooklyn used to claim that and THEY got it from some place up near Gravesend. I think it s a general claim that floats around. Maybe they DO take a lot of time (it is a laborious soup) but one of the best I know is said by its creator to be started in the morning and ready for lunch. Still about 5 hours, though

                          1. re: hazelhurst

                            If one has ever cooked "turtle meat," they would understand the "three days," though in our experience, it actually takes even longer, to get it soft, and edible.


                        2. re: hazelhurst

                          HA! that was so funny!i wonder if there was a Tulip- mafioso equivalent in 17th c. Holland!?