The Alien Artichoke

a guest post by Kerry Knight

Artichokes come from outer space. Very people know this, but it’s true. I figured it out after reading “Planet of Death” when I was in grade three. This was the first novel I had ever read, and made me acutely aware of the numerous alien life forms that are around us.

In the novel, earthman Roy Crawford is a stowaway on a spaceship that lands on World Seven in Star System z-16. There Roy and a group of scientists are confronted, terrorized and, in some cases, eaten by extremely scary man eating plants.

There is an actual photo of an encounter that graces the cover of Planet of Death. Have a look at it, if you dare.

Note the gaping maw of the man-eater, the hapless astronaut, hands thrown up in terror. I had nightmares for months. Thankfully by the time I was in grade six I had forgotten about this book, and that horrifying image. Then one fateful evening I went to Peter Wojciechowski’s house for supper and Peter’s Mamusha served us artichokes.

The head was steamed, and I was forced to eat the thing, my little heart pounding, peeling off one green petal at a time, dipping it in butter and scraping its guts along my teeth.

Peter and his mother thought nothing of this, why would they, they were always eating weird things like ”granola,”  “yogurt,” “Fejoida.” They had a “compost pile” in their backyard. Who knows what monstrosities lurked in that.

Regardless, I was shaken. The artichoke is one of the strangest looking and scariest of all plants. It did not help matters to find out that Peter’s dad was a scientist who taught chemical engineering at Queen’s. He drove an Avanti, watched Monty Python and listened to Switched on Bach. The evidence against the artichoke was mounting.

Later that week I looked at a few pictures of artichokes in the Encyclopedia Britannica and was convinced. Definitely from outer space, probably from the Star System Z-16.

Here is a picture of an artichoke.

Look familiar? Look at that marauding monster, how it dwarfs the dwellings behind it, wherein quake the terrified occupants, too frightened to venture outside. Aliens indeed live among us, hiding in plain sight. Artichokes love mild temperatures, have settled in warm regions for centuries, and have a large population in Castroville, California, the self proclaimed artichoke Capital of the world. And so they wait, patiently, to take over, like Triffids (although Triffids were made in a lab in the USSR), or the body-snatching Pod People, or the absolute worst, Hen and Chicks (pictured below). All of these insidious alien invaders have one goal; today Castroville, tomorrow the world!

Fortunately for us, artichokes have one major flaw; they are delicious. Even as an 11 year old this was obvious. And since they don’t walk around, like Triffids, they are easy to catch.

Here is how to cook and eat an artichoke.

Cook It.

1. Slice about 3/4 inch to an inch off the tip of the artichoke.

2. Pull off any smaller leaves towards the base and on the stem.

3. Cut excess stem, leaving up to an inch on the artichoke.

4. Rinse the artichokes in running cold water.

5. In a large pot, put a couple inches of water, a clove of garlic, a slice of lemon, and a bay leaf. Insert a steaming basket and add the artichokes. Cover. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 25 to 45 minutes or until the outer leaves can easily be pulled off. Cooking time depends on how large the artichoke is; the larger, the longer it takes to cook.

Eat It.

Artichokes may be eaten cold or hot. They are served with a dip, either melted butter or aioli.

1. Pull off outer petals, one at a time.

2. Dip white fleshy end in melted butter or sauce. Tightly grip the other end of the petal. Place in mouth, dip side down, and pull along bottom teeth to remove soft, pulpy portion of the petal. Discard remaining petal. Continue until all of the petals are removed.

3. With a knife or spoon, scrape out and discard the inedible fuzzy part –the choke- covering the artichoke heart. The remaining bottom of the artichoke is the heart. Cut into pieces and dip into sauce to eat.

If you decide you don’t want to go through this soul satisfying ritual, you can always buy prepared artichoke hearts at most grocery stores. There they are, dead and helpless, marinating in liquid in charming jars, like Abby Normal’s brain. Artichoke hearts are meaty, a word vegans don’t get to throw around every day, scrumptious and versatile.

No matter how you decide to consume them, do you part to save the world. Eat an artichoke. The life you save may be your own.




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