Sunday, September 24, 2023
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Follow the Artichoke Trail

By Amanda Christensen

Maybe little-known to some, nearly two-thirds of the world’s artichokes come from one small city along California’s Monterey Bay. Castroville, home to just 6,500 residents, is dubbed the “Artichoke Capital of the World” and is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year. 

Artichoke from Pezzini Farms in Monterey. May 24, 2023
Artichoke from Pezzini Farms CREDIT See Monterey

The Salinas Valley that surrounds Castroville is known as the “Salad Bowl of the World,” and groups can experience the tasty thistle species unique to Monterey through the Artichoke Trail and the annual Artichoke Festival held in June. “The Artichoke Trail features 40 stops where visitors can enjoy California’s state vegetable in many forms, from touring the artichoke fields and farm stands to inventive artichoke dishes,” explains Teresa Savage, vice president of business development for the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The purpose of the trail is to promote agritourism. … It spotlights one of Monterey County’s unique ingredients and aims to demystify the vegetable.” 

For those wanting to participate, a digital interactive trail map is available to help guide visitors from spot to spot. Attractions include the world’s largest artichoke statue and Ag Venture Tours & Consulting’s Pezzini Farm Walk in Castroville. Meet with the local growers at the Alisal Certified Farmers Market in Salinas (among several others), and experience all the flavors the artichoke offers at local restaurants like Baja Cantina & Grill in Carmel Valley, Fish Hopper in Monterey, and Flying Artichoke in Salinas (many of which take group reservations). 

Mark your calendars for this year’s Artichoke Festival at the Monterey County Fairgrounds. “The 2023 festival, themed ‘Thistle Be Fun,’ will feature a wide-ranging variety of entertainment, including Chef’s Demos, a farmers market, wine tastings, a Saturday Night comedy show, and a quilting challenge,” Savage adds. 

With Monterey County’s cool coastal climate and fertile soil like the Mediterranean (the native home of the veggie), California artichokes are tried and true—and Savage emphasizes that “Nothing compares to sampling an ingredient from the very place it’s from!”