From Pot to Plate: How to grow and cook Globe Artichokes
You don't actually need a garden to grow beautiful and tasty fruit and vegetables says Great Dixter’s Aaron Bertelsen
Aaron Bertelsen knows how to get the most out of a garden. Originally from New Zealand and trained at Kew Gardens in London, Bertelsen joined the iconic country house Great Dixter in 1996 as a student and has worked there as the vegetable gardener and cook ever since.
If you’ve visited this beautiful house, a couple of hours south of London, you may well have admired Bertelsen’s beds in the grounds, or enjoyed the fruits of his labours in Great Dixter’s café – or Refreshment Loggia, as it is known on site.
Bertelsen is proud of these beautiful and useful beds, yet, as he writes in his new book, Grow Fruit & Vegetables in Pots, “it is one of the smallest corners of the garden – the kitchen courtyard – that perhaps brings me the most pleasure."
“This small area, just a few metres square, with its mellow brick walls and floor, sits directly outside my kitchen door,” Bertelsen explains. He decided the place needed some potted plants here, because, as Bertelsen writes, “when you spend as much time at the kitchen sink as I do, it is very important to have something nice to look at.”
To begin with he planted tulips, when these died back over the summer he introduced herbs, which looked good and proved tasty too. The project grew, and now the courtyard is filled with potted plants that are both pleasing to look at and serve as useful cookery ingredients. Chief among these are globe artichokes, which, as Bertelsen writes, “arguably deserve their place in the container garden for their sheer beauty and architectural presence alone.”
The tall, structured, thistle-like plants are fairly easy to raise, he says. “They will need a large pot – 40 cm/16 inches in diameter – if they are to do well, and good, well-drained soil,” the gardener and cook advises.
Bertelsen recommends mulching in autumn, replacing the plant every four years or so, to ensure it remains productive, and giving it a “good soak” of water roughly every four days. Black fly can be a problem too; “however, giving the growing plants a squirt of soapy water will help to keep the invaders down,” he writes.
Harvest the globe-like heads in late summer or early autumn, and you’re ready to make stuffed artichokes, a delicious, healthy side dish which features in Bertelsen's new book. For this you’ll need 6 globe artichokes, the juice of a lemon; 100 grams or 3 ½ ounces of dried breadcrumbs; four cloves of garlic; a handful of flat-leaf parsley; half a cup of white wine; two tablespoons of olive oil; 200 grams or 7 ounces of shelled broad (fava) beans and 200 grams or 7 ounces of shelled peas, as well as salt and pepper.
Trim and wash the artichokes, scoop out the hairy innards, and put them in a pan of water with half the lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 7–10 minutes.
Put the breadcrumbs, garlic and parsley in a bowl with the wine, oil and the remaining lemon juice. Season well with salt and pepper and mix together. Place the artichokes upright in a shallow pan, stuff the breadcrumb mix in between the leaves and also between the chokes themselves.
Blanch the broad (fava) beans in a separate pan of boiling water for 3 minutes, then drain. When they are cool enough to handle, slip off the outer skins and mix with the peas. Stuff the bean and pea mixture in and around the artichokes. Half fill the pan with water (so the artichokes are half immersed) and place over low heat. Partially cover the pan and simmer for about 20 minutes, checking regularly that there is enough water that the chokes don’t burn.
Preheat the grill (broiler) to high. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the artichokes to a heatproof dish and grill for 10 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are lightly browned.
There; you’ve gone from pot to plate in about 30 minutes. For a more detailed version of this recipe, as well as more tips on growing artichokes and much more besides, order a copy of Grow Fruit & Vegetables in Pots here.