Artichokes in Turkish Art + Gastronomy
Mother Tongue and Hasat
Throughout history and into the modern-day, we frequently see the influence of food go beyond the plate. In this three-part collaborative project between Hasat and Mother Tongue, we will explore the connection between Turkey’s culinary and artistic cultures, starting our first chapter with the artichoke.
The artichoke is a vegetable of Mediterranean origin. It is believed to be developed in Sicily in the 14th Century through the domestication of wild artichoke, known as cardoon (kenger in Turkish). Though we find artichokes mentioned in Ottoman archives dating as far back as 1471, these records are known to imply the wild variety.
Archaeologist and food engineer Ahmet Uhri traces back the appearance of artichokes in Turkey through the trail of Jewish communities migrating from Western Europe.
“Jewish immigrants brought with them the artichoke and planted it for the first time in Ortakoy/Istanbul. Later on, Bayrampasa in Istanbul took the lead in artichoke production.”
This reputation lasted many years until Bayrampasa’s urbanization left apartment blocks in place of gardens, and sculptures in place of plants.
Unlike Europeans, Ottomans did not take a conservative stance against the newly-developed artichoke and made this vegetable a part of their cuisines. With rising popularity from the 17th century onwards, more fields became allocated solely to artichoke production in Istanbul.
Once the artichoke found itself a place in the Ottoman palace, it seeped out of the kitchen and into the workshops, where it inspired motifs from İznik ceramics to velvet fabrics with gold thread.
Seven centuries since its cultivation, the cultural relevance of artichokes has grown, despite industrialization. In their recent art project, Jovita Sakalauskaite and Elvan Özkavruk Adanır recreated 35 dishes significant to Turkey’s third-largest city Izmir, using only textiles - out of which, not one, but two were artichoke based.
In the markets of Turkey, people have developed unique selling points with regard to the artichoke. From displaying their technical skills of trimming the produce (see video below) to a non-traditional take on sushi (see picture below), the artichoke encourages originality.
The popularity of artichokes in Turkish cuisine has grown significantly in the past few years and have become a staple in Turkish Aegean meze cuisine; small dishes served as appetizers. Traditionally thought of as Turkish peasant food, Turkey now ranks at number eleven on the list of artichoke-producing countries globally. The artichoke is praised for its health benefits assisting liver function, bile excretion, fat reduction, and the passing of kidney stones, to name just a few. 
The decorative yet spiky bulb is used as a symbol for local gourmet food markets, restaurants, and towns, specifically in the Aegean region. Since 2015, the cities of Izmir and Urla, located in Southwestern Turkey, have partnered together to host an annual artichoke festival. The festival brings awareness to the beauty of artichokes in Turkish Aegean cuisine while also encouraging tourism in the region. Experts and chefs flock to the festival to host workshops, prepare gourmet tastings, and teach about the gastronomic significance of the artichoke.
The Mediterranean climate of Southwestern Turkey and the sandy yet fertile soil conditions are ideal for producing artichokes.  Patience, labor, and water are required to grow these large architectural plants. Technically, an artichoke is an immature flower bud of a thistle plant; therefore, timing is everything when harvesting this delicacy. During harvest season, farmers check the artichokes daily to pick the bud before they flower. A sturdy and prolific plant, artichokes are relatively resistant to pests and can remain productive for five to seven harvest years.
From farm to table feels a bit intimidating when applied to the artichoke. When harvested, the edible plant is confusing, and what about the ‘choke’ an artichoke? It is helpful to know that the plants’ edible parts are in two places: the leaves’ base and the bud’s heart, including the head of the tender stalk. A lot of trimming is involved to access the core, and immediately after you cut into the plant, it will start to oxidize. 
Keep half a lemon and bowl of lemon water nearby to rub on exposed parts of the artichoke and reduce browning. To see how we cleaned and processed the artichoke, watch the video below or visit @HasatCo on Instagram. Once the plant’s heart is removed, the artichoke can be fried, grilled, steamed, pickled, canned, puréed, and more.
We prepared a delicious recipe from Samin Nosrat, author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, which boils and roasts the artichoke to develop maximum flavor before coating in a tangy vinaigrette. Not only is this recipe delicious, but it also allows the texture and flavor of the artichoke to be the star of the dish. To learn how to prepare this recipe, visit www.HasatCo.com for the recipe and check out the video below.
As we continue to explore the overlap of food and art, we cannot deny the delicious and decorative presence of the artichoke in traditional recipes, tile designs, paintings, and textiles in Turkish and Ottoman culture. The plant’s geometric and architectural appearance inspires the art world, while the choke’s tender edible heart presents endless opportunities for chefs and cooks alike.
Go and get yourself some artichokes, try out the recipe, and browse Mother Tongue’s collection of beautiful artichoke-inspried objects here. Thanks for following along in our exploration of the artichoke and stay tuned for the next chapter!