Ode to My First Globe Artichoke

my first globe artichokes

So delighted to harvest my first globe artichoke today. They were started from Koanga Institute seeds January 30, 2010, and survived along the edge of the orchard, but never seemed to thrive. They were shaded by a fence and tall puka on the other side. Moved a couple of them into the strawberry patch at the end of last season and now we’ve got artichokes! ¬†They’re so tender and tasty, I like to steam, eat, and appreciate them without any extraneous flavours.

In honor of this joyous occasion, I offer Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to the Artichoke”:

The tender-hearted
artichoke
dressed up as a warrior,
erect, it built itself
a little dome,
it kept itself
impregnable
beneath
its armoured leaves,
beside it
the raving vegetables
began to frizzle,
they turned themselves into
tendrils, bullrushes,
touching bulbs,
below the ground
the red-moustachioed carrot
slept,
the vine
dried out its shoots
through which wine climbs,
the leafy cabbage
took to trying on skirts,
oregano
to scenting the world,
and the sweet
artichoke
there in the garden,
was dressed as a warrior,
burnished
like a grenade and proud,
and one day
assembled with its fellows
in large wicker baskets,
it walked
through the market
to make its dream of
soldiery
come true.
In ranks
it never was so military
as at the market,
the men
among the vegetables
with their white shirts
were
marshals
of the artichokes
the serried files,
the ordering voices,
and the report
of a fallen crate,
but then
Maria
comes along
and with her basket,
picks out
an artichoke
she isn’t scared,
she scrutinizes it, considers it
against the light as if it were an egg,
and buys it,
tossing it
into her bag
jumbled together with a pair of shoes,
a cabbage and a
bottle full of vinegar
until
when entering her kitchen
she plunges it into a pot.
Thus ends
in peace
the enlistment
of this armed vegetable
called the artichoke,
after which
leaf after leaf
we undress
its deliciousness
and eat
the peaceful substance
of its green heart.

(Translated by Phillip Hill)

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