Ken is enthusiastic about the artichokes he grows.

Artichoke Fields of Lazzerini in Castroville and Moss Landing

Ninety per cent of all the artichokes grown in the United States come from Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties in California. Artichoke, inspite of all the renown for the Salinas Valley as the Salad Bowl of America, is the official vegetable of Monterey County.

Packing House Barn & Produce Stand in Castroville

Almost all of the region's crop is grown in Castroville, and its neighbor, Moss Landing. Lazzerini Farms is right in the middle of all the excitement. Ken Lazzerini is a third generation artichoke grower -his grandfather was one of the pioneering growers.

These Green Globe Artichokes have no equal, and can only be grown from plantings, not seeds.

Vicente (right) and Fernando (above) select artichokes.

Ken personally supervises all field operations. Of course, because his heritage is Italian, he has a culinary gift. So he takes an active interest in Sherri's work at the Stands, too.

He is such an authentic aficionado of artichokes, he eats them raw. We tried it out in the field with him.

Select a baby choke. Peel away about a fourth or a fifth of the outer leaves ... cut about a third of the top off ... trim away the stem at the bottom, so there is just pulpy meat of the heart left, just light green ... pop in mouth and savor. Delicious.

Artichokes luxuriate here because of a rare combination of weather and soil. Monterey Bay has unique geologic conditions that cause a moist climate over the Pajaro and Salinas Valleys. A cold water upwelling from 6,000 ft deep underwater canyons clashes with warm air and creates fog. The fog drifts onto this land that is laced with nutrient rich waterways. The effect is a wet, cool temperate climate.

Locals say the conditions are so perfect here you could grow artichokes on a telephone pole. Yes, the conditions here are the most ideal in the world. But, it takes knowledge, very thorough care and good management to grow really great artichokes.

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Castroville - Artichoke Center of the World

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