Yes, you can grow artichokes in Maine. I plant them nearly every year, and some years the yield is terrific whiles others it is zip. This has been a terrific year.
I have five plants, and we have enjoyed big, gorgeous, meaty globes, that grew right out of the center of the plant plus lots of moderate, appetizer-sized, side-shoots. Pretty soon, we will have a dozen or so small, lime-sized or smaller artichokes that I can chop up and cook to eat with pasta, or slice and fry in olive oil until they are crisp and crunchy.
The real taste-treat is the incredible tenderness of fresh, local artichokes. Nearly the whole leaf is tender, and when you scrape it over your teeth, you end up with a lot of artichoke in your mouth and the mere tip of the leaf in your fingers. In the larger ones, even the bristly center is fully edible.
You may know that artichokes are a cultivated thistle. The big, jagged leaves look very thistle-like and the globes we eat are in fact, flower buds. The little prickles at the top of the artichoke petals point to the artichoke’s thistle origin.
I like eating them hot and cold. If hot, they are simply delicious dipped in melted butter, or garlic butter; or if you are feeling more ambitious, you can make Hollandaise sauce with egg yolk, lemon, and butter. When cold, artichokes are wonderful dipped into aioli–that is, garlicky mayonnaise–lemon aioli, or mustardy mayonnaise. I bet there would be some who would reach for a bottle of Ranch dressing for their artichokes.
Around our house, I use half a stick of butter melted with a couple cloves of garlic grated into it. For aioli, I use about a quarter cup of good mayo with a couple garlic cloves grated into it. The lemon aioli recipe can be found in the May 28, 2014 Tastebuds. Good old mayonnaise with coarse, grainy mustard stirred into it to taste, is my last-minute, all-purpose vegetable dip. Which leaves us with Hollandaise.
I learned about the easy Fanny Farmer blender Hollandaise recipe which follows years and years ago from my best friend from high school years. I was visiting her in the early 1970s and watched her whip it together. I was certainly not raised in the kind of household where anyone made Hollandaise, or ate artichokes either for that matter. But I thought it was wonderful, and a couple years later when I received a Fanny Farmer of my own as a gift, I stumbled on the recipe and recalled how good it was. It is, truth be known, a kind of cheater Hollandaise because the blender does all the work of emulsifying the yolk, lemon juice, and butter, and the cook gets to goof off mostly.
Fanny Farmer’s Blender Hollandaise
½ cup (one stick) butter
3 egg yolks
2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
Melt the butter. Put the yolks, lemon juice, and salt in a blender, and blend on low to mix all the ingredients together until they are smooth. Continuing the low speed, add the melted butter gradually and blend for about a minute more until the mixture is smooth and lemony yellow.
Makes about a cup of sauce.