You can find artichokes year round in France, where they first became popular in the Renaissance—yet another dish possibly introduced by Catherine de’ Medici. Today the country is Europe’s third biggest producer after Italy and Spain.
Fond d’artichaut: artichoke bottom (available also canned or frozen)
coeur d’artichaut: artichoke heart
There are two main kinds. Brittany is where they grow most of the big green globe kind ('Vert de Laon' 'Camus de Bretagne', or 'Castel').
In the spring you’ll find the pretty little green-purple violets de Provence, harvested when they are slightly immature and very tender (when they are called artichauts poivrade) and usually sold in bouquets of five; they are often eaten raw in salads, in a vinaigrette or à la barigoule.
Artichaut sounds like the name of the Big Band leader Artie Shaw. It would be remiss of me not to mention that the only contest I ever won was the challenge put on by a late night former jazz show on the TV channel M6 in France to think of other jazz musicians whose names were similar to French foods.
I won a double Artie Shaw CD for my troubles, but unfortunately I lost the list and can only remember that Cab Calloway was cabicou au lait.
Images by Dana Facaros, Doogsta, SummerTomato