Monterey Peninsula personal reflections

This is Monterey County: Sand, Sea & Artichokes

Artichokes? Yeah, we have a festival for those!

Castroville Artichoke Festival happens the weekend of May 19-20, 2012 in the little town of Castroville about 16 miles north of Monterey. This is the 53rd festival. Looks to me like the festival started in 1960, the year I was born not too many miles away from Castroville across the fields of Monterey County. Though back in 1960 some of those fields between Castroville and Monterey were artillery ranges at the former Fort Ord Army Base.

The North Monterey County Chamber of Commerce website states artichokes grown around Castroville provide 75% of the U.S. supply.

I believe it. I just drove through about five miles of artichoke fields today alongside Highway 1 and the sand dunes between Moss Landing and Marina.

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I looked at several miles of fields and I am pretty sure I saw over one million artichokes sticking up in the air. The primary annual artichoke harvest is happening now. These artichokes pictured above are sized as large, a bit larger than a softball. These green globe varietal artichokes are perennials and fields produce more than one harvest per year. 

My wife loves artichokes and she can devour a big one like this easily. I usually eat the large ones in two settings since the leaves fill me up in the first round and then in round two I go for the heart at the base of the stem. We steam large artichokes for about 45 minutes. The chewy portion of vegetable on the leaves comes off easily by dragging the leaf between your teeth if you cooked it long enough. The heart is a sweet chunk that you have to work your way to by eating a hundred or so leaves to reach the interior. Artichokes are extremely rich in fiber and anti-oxidants and a provide a dose of natural Vitamin C. Monterey Costco sells four large artichokes for $5.49.

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The sand dunes about 0.5 miles in the distance are the barrier to the Pacific Ocean in Monterey Bay. This is low ground by the sea, many hours of the year shrouded in a ground fog layer in this portion of Monterey Bay that is one of the foggiest microclimate locations of the region. These fields near the beaches of Monterey Bay have resisted residential development for the past fifty years.

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Castroville is a town of about 6,000 residents surrounded by agricultural fields. Castroville serves as the crossroads for Highway 1 north to Santa Cruz or Highway 183 east to Salinas and is five miles from Highway 101, the major California coastal region traffic corridor for long haul driving. Life slows to two lanes around Monterey by any route.

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I bet Woody Guthrie played a song in Castroville at least one time. This is a place to celebrate the workers who bring us our food.

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Salinas River State Beach at Moss Landing near Castroville. Moss Landing is a fishing village and a marine sciences research center on Highway 1 in the center of the Monterey Bay coastline.

Lodging for the Artichoke Festival in Castroville

The town of Marina, 7 miles south of Castroville, is the closest location to the Artichoke Festival for a choice of lodging including Holiday Inn Express, Best Western, Ramada, Comfort Inn and Quality Inn. Monterey and Carmel are 16 to 20 miles south and offer all market segments of hotels from budget to luxury.

I’m blogging the Steinbeck Festival May 3-6, 2012

May 3-6, 2012 is the 32nd annual Steinbeck Festival at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California. This year the festival events include the Woody Guthrie Centennial 2012 with films, lectures and music featuring Woody Guthrie’s work.

Last month I watched two movies on the same weekend: The Grapes of Wrath with Henry Fonda as Steinbeck’s character Tom Joad and Bound to Glory, the Woody Guthrie story with David Carradine. Now I know there was a purpose to immersing myself in these two stories on TV. I toured Ed Ricketts lab on Cannery Row, rarely open to the public, earlier this year and I read the book Cannery Row.

I am psyched about attending the Steinbeck Festival this week. I’ll be writing about festival events and tweeting on Twitter and uploading some photos on Facebook. Steinbeck, Guthrie and Springsteen is a seminar not to be missed.

Come check out Monterey County this month before the crowds and fog come in summer. Steinbeck, Guthrie, artichokes, beaches, music, wine and Big Sur.

This is Monterey County.


  • Chris L. May 1, 2012

    Ric – another option is to steam them for about 20-30 minutes (heart is soft enough to pierce with a knife tip) and then take them out and let them cool a bit. Cut them in half (vertical cut) and scoop out the spiny thistle part, leaving the heart & leaves intact. Do a quick marinade with Balsamic, EV Olive Oil, crushed garlic and some salt & pepper and brush it on. Then toss the chokes on the grill for 8-10 minutes or so turning once. Or swap out the Balsamic with fresh squeezed lemon juice. Great blog – keep up the good work!

  • Ric Garrido May 2, 2012

    Chris L. – My wife wants your cooking! She is always asking me to grill the artichokes and asparagus.

    I eat artichokes simply. I am the guy who doesn’t use salad dressing either.

    I really should go check out the artichoke festival this month and learn more ways to prepare the vegetable.

  • […] This is Monterey County: Sand, Sea & Artichokes Did you know that Monterey County produces 75% of the United States’ artichokes? There is even an entire festival dedicated to the thorny thistle. […]

  • Perfect Artichoke May 13, 2012

    Yum! That sounds so delicious. We can help you make sure those artichokes are perfect no matter how you want to look them. Come see us at our booth at the Castroville Artichoke Festival this weekend and check out our website!

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