PICKING PRODUCE FIGHTS: Why in the world would we, or anyone, pit one vegetable or plant or fruit against another piece of produce? We absolutely would not, because everything on the misty, refrigerated-shelf side of the market has something luscious and healthy and tangy and flavorful to offer, even if you can't compare a plum and a pepper (though a plum jam made with spicy pepper bits sounds mighty yummy and perfect for zinging up an entree). There are a few superstars of the produce shelves, however. Call them divas or stand-outs or notables or headliners, but you know them when you see them. We'll put the banana in this group, that most portable, in-its-own-suitcase potassium-deliverer, and we'll add garlic, too, which hides a family of cloves within one smooth head.
HELLO, ARTICHOKES: And then there is that great globe of greenness, one of the roundest of edibles, the crown of a thistle, the artichoke. True, true, this superstar demands a little work -- there's no popping the entire thing in your mouth, even the small ones, because, uh, sharp-pointy-leafy bits -- but it delivers a bundle in teeth-scraping meaty texture. (Disclaimer: Of course there is no meat in artichokes, but one can't write about them without using the term "meaty" -- it's practically law.) Castroville, the center of the Milky Way, and probably beyond, for all things artichokean, pauses to celebrate its star thistle each spring with a weekend-long bash full of country tunes, shopping, wine tasting, kidly diversions, and yes, so much artichoke-y eating.
MAY 30 AND 31... are the Saturday and Sunday of the 2015 party, and there shall be so many culinary creations based on artichokes: cupcakes, raviolis, burritos, and ice cream are just four of the things you might try. Wait, did we accidentally type "might" right there? Forget it: You're not leaving Castroville without having bitten into an artichoke cupcake. By the by, "nearly two-thirds" of America's artichokes hail from the area, so consider yourself at the source. One more by the by: The festival has growngrowngrown. It's the 56th annual, and it is big, so it now happens at the Monterey County Fair & Event Center. Yep, when you're the star of the produce shelves, and your hometown party has been around for over a half century, you gotta go fairgrounds to hold all of your fans. Fans who probably like to dip their leaves, but may not. Did we mention the versatility of this age-old thistle? It makes any condiment sing. Move over, hot dogs and fries.