Don’t get us wrong, we love strawberry festivals and watermelon festivals but, let’s face it, those agricultural products grow all over America. The artichoke, however, is something special — almost all the artichokes grown in the U.S. come from California. The California town of Castroville is known as The Artichoke Center of the World. So when we hear that Castroville is holding an artichoke festival, well, we want to put down our strawberries and watermelons and head straight there! This weekend is the big event: the Castroville Artichoke Food & Wine Festival.
Artichokes look like a giant flower bud, and that’s just what they are — the flower bud of a thistle. The buds are eaten before they bloom. If you are not all that familiar with the vegetable, this weekend is an ideal time to get to know them better. If you know and love the thistle, come to the artichoke fest to try them in ways you’ve never imagined. Enjoy them fried, made into artichoke nut bread, or inside a BBQ artichoke sandwich. Sample artichoke burritos, artichoke ice cream, and artichoke truffles. You’ll likely find artichoke hummus and artichoke pasta sauce to take home.
Learn how to prepare artichokes at the chef demonstrations. Head out to the farm on one of the artichoke field tours to learn first hand how they are grown and harvested. Buy fresh artichokes at the farmers market. Check out the Agro Art competition, where sculptures are made out of artichokes and other fresh produce. Artichoke eating contests take place both Saturday and Sunday. It’s called a food and wine festival so, yes, there will be local wineries (and craft breweries) presenting their wares for you to sample. There will be two stages running all weekend with musical performers and dancers. It sounds like a wonderful way to spend a weekend! See the festival website for all the pertinent details.