Grown from seed last year, nursed through the cold winter, my artichokes are now ready. I take considerable pleasure in their heraldic appearance. I once visited a country house where the outside walls were decorated with carved artichokes; the leaves look well in stone.
I first saw an artichoke eaten in a Norfolk hotel, on the last day of a family holiday. I would have been five or six. My father, whose usual doctor's asceticism was tempered with tendencies to gourmandisme when away from home, ordered artichokes. They came, with great ceremony, melted butter, finger bowls and a receptacle for the discarded leaves. He demonstrated how to eat them, first tearing away the leaves and nibbling the base, then, when the centre was exposed, deftly removing the hairy choke and eating the base.
I shall eat some of these, but leave at least one to flower.