Artichoke: the Goddess of all veggies

By Caner Kocamaz

Artichokes (Cynara scolymus in Latin) are a heavenly green that even have a place among the stars of Greek mythology. A story goes that Zeus fell in love with Cynara, a mortal, and took her to Olympos. However, the beauty missed her life on earth, and one night Cynara snuck back to her hometown. Upon her return to Olympus, Zeus was enraged and sent her home, in the form of the plant we now know as an artichoke, or enginar in Turkish.

Artichokes grow best in the soils where this legend takes root, on farms along the Aegean. İzmir, especially the surrounding Urla district, is famous for its sakız enginarı, a breed of artichoke lauded for the delicate, luscious flavor of both its leaves and heart. Bursa, on the other hand, produces the hearty Bayrampaşa enginarı, a rounder, heavier type with tougher leaves that is eaten both fresh and preserved. The Aegean region harvest begins in November and reaches its peak around April. The season of its Bursa counterpart begins in May and continues until early summer. 

With the advent of the Urla International Artichoke Festival, new uses for this beloved vegetable have emerged. As the gastronomy world has flocked to the area, it has become possible to discover new and unusual artichoke dishes beyond the traditional stuffed or olive-oil poached renditions.

Get a taste of artichokes at the Alaçatı Ot Festival and the Urla International Artichoke Festival.

How to get the artichoke heart 

  • Cut off leaves in a spiral movement until you reach the soft bud inside.
  • Trim off the soft bud so you are left with only the heart. 
  • Trim stem, and with a paring knife remove any other hard parts on the outside.
  • Slightly scoop out the choke inside the heart. Place in water with lemon juice and lemon slices.

Cook it yourself

Here is the recipe of Bursa Bayrampaşa artichoke with smoked buckwheat and lemon balm dressing by Tevfik Alparslan, executive chef of Topaz.

  • 2 large artichokes
  • 5 shallots
  • a clove of garlic
  • 40 gr crisp carrot
  • 1 lemon, juice of
  • 10 gr sugar
  • 55 ml olive oil
  • 30 gr buckwheat
  • 1 tbsp mustard
  • 1 bouquet lemon balm (Melissa)  
  • half a lemon
  • 22 ml olive oil
  • 5 ml apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper 

Trim sharp leaves and remove choke from the inside of your fresh artichokes, but leave the leaves. Place all ingredients (except for smoked buckwheat and mustard) into a small, deep pot. Add water until 80 percent of the artichokes are covered. Cook on low heat for 40 mins. Let cool. In another pot, cook smoked buckwheat in a mix of mustard and the artichoke water. When finished, stuff artichokes with the buckwheat. For dressing, chop lemon balm herb and whisk all ingredients together. Pour over artichokes, and serve.