Growing globe artichokes - Kimberly Gillan
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Growing globe artichokes - Kimberly Gillan

from the sourcegoodtoknowfrom the heartFor Ross Mazza, running an artichoke farm is more than a business.It’s about getting shoulder deep among the leaves to pickhis crop – just like he did when his dad ran the farm.Words Kimberly Gillan Photography simon griffithsMay 2011 Australian Good Taste 105

from the sourceI love getting out there picking.It brings me back to how I grew up.Ross Mazza, farmer106 Australian Good Taste May 2011

from the sourcegoodtoknowArtichokes are great when stuffed,turned into dip or used in quiche.Fully grown artichoke plantsreach up to 1.2 metres tall.Ross harvests up to 25,000artichokes each year.Globe artichoke farmer GiovanniMazza thanked his lucky starswhen his wife Maria gave birthto their fourth child on New Year’sDay in 1959 – a baby brother for thefarmer’s three daughters. They namedhim Ross and from the moment theboy could walk, Giovanni startedimparting his artichoke knowledge.When Ross was just 16, Giovannihanded over the reins of the family’s14-hectare Werribee South artichokefarm – a 30-minute drive south-westof Melbourne – and sat back to watchhis son flourish. “The bugger didn’tlike working that much after I tookover!” says Ross, now 52. He and hiswife Josephine built a home next tohis parents’ place, where they raisedtheir own children – three daughters,Vanessa, Sarah and Stephanie.harvest timeTrialling new plant varieties andexperimenting with growing methodshas helped Ross establish himselfas the “go-to” man of Australianartichokes. And while he might be thehead of a large artichoke operation,he still likes to get his hands dirty.“I love getting out there picking withthe workers,” he says. “Plus, it bringsme back to how I grew up and usedto do it with my dad. If you’re outthere physically working, you loseweight and get a better appetite.”Every December Ross plantsabout 110,000 seeds – each plantgrows about five artichokes, so heneeds plenty on the go to keep upwith demand. They’re planted closetogether so by the time harvestingstarts in April, the four-person pickingteam has to push their way througha dense forest of 1.2-metre-highplants to uncover the artichokes.“If you have enough experience,you know what to look for,” explainsRoss. “When you see the plantswith their leaves standing up tall,you know there are going to beloads of good artichokes.”Artichokes are hardy plants, butRoss says frost can cost him valuableharvesting time. “You can’t pick themuntil the frost has thawed, otherwisethey go black,” he explains. “Ratherthan risking anything like that, wedon’t harvest them until about 10amwhen they’ve thawed out.” That’sthree hours later than he’d prefer,but Ross knows it’s crucial to deliverquality produce to give peoplea good artichoke experience.May 2011 Australian Good Taste 107

When you see the plants with theirleaves standing up tall, you know thereare going to be loads of good artichokes.Ross Mazza, farmer108 Australian Good TasteMay 2011

from the sourcegoodtoknowprosciutto-stuffed artichokesServes 2Prep 10 mins Cooking 25 mins2 globe artichokes1 lemon, juiced2 tbs fresh breadcrumbs2 tbs finely grated parmesan1 tbs chopped fresh oregano2 slices prosciutto, chopped80ml ( 1 / 3 cup) white wine1 tbs olive oilLemon zest, to serveFresh oregano leaves, to serveExtra virgin olive oil, to serveRecipe alison adams food Photography jeremy simons styling tracey meharg food preparation kerrie ray1 Trim artichoke stems to 3cm. Cut 2cmfrom top of the leaves. Peel 2 layersof outer leaves or until pale leaves areexposed. Discard outer leaves. Scoop outand discard choke from the centre. Placein a bowl of water and add lemon juice.2 Preheat oven to 180°C. Combinebreadcrumbs, parmesan, oregano andprosciutto in a bowl. Separate artichokeleaves and fill with crumb mixture. Transferto a baking dish. Pour over wine and oliveoil. Cover with foil. Bake for 20-25 minutesor until tender. Top with lemon zest andoregano. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.Per serve 10g protein • 17g fat (4g saturated fat)8g carb • 1.5g dietary fibre • 1040kJ (250 Cals)We open the leaves and fill them with a mixof breadcrumbs, egg, garlic and parsley.“The biggest test is when you slicethrough the centre – the insideshould be nice and crisp,” he says.During peak season Ross and histeam pick up to 25,000 artichokes.Artichokes that are sold fresh need tobe as big as a “good-sized orange”;smaller ones can be preserved asartichoke hearts, which are deliciousin antipasto or tossed through pasta.Once the crop is harvested, Ross startspreparing for the next season. “Whilewe’re picking, the strategy for the nextyear has already begun,” says Ross.For tips on how toprepare artichokes, goto Mazza, Ross’s wifeproduce to plateWith their tough outer leaves andstems, artichokes can be fiddly toprepare but Ross swears you’ll nevertaste anything as good as his wifeJosephine’s stuffed artichokes.“We open the leaves and fill themwith a mix of breadcrumbs, egg,garlic and parsley,” says Josephine.And once it’s cooked? The Mazzasdevour the stuffing straight off theleaves, then enjoy the artichoke.Ross and Josephine recently hostedan artichoke day, where friends cameto watch AFL and enjoy Josephine’sstuffed artichokes, along withartichoke dip and quiche. “Mostof our guests had never tasted anartichoke – they were blown away,”says Josephine.While Ross is proud of his wife’sstuffed artichokes, it’s nothing likethe pride she has for him growingthem. “He’s done it for so manyyears. Other people wouldn’t beable to grow them – they’d doa season then stop,” says Josephine.“He’s well known across Australianow for his artichokes.”For Josephine’sartichoke recipe, go 2011 Australian Good Taste 109

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