Not long ago someone posted a message on my local community email list about Noam's Artichokes, an artichoke farm located in Nir Banim, a moshav in south-central Israel, about a 40 minute drive from where I live. The poster suggested a Friday (or Shabbat) morning visit to taste the delicious artichoke-based food and to take a tour of the farm. Now, a morning spent out in the fresh air, eating what sounded like delicious food, was too tempting for me. It's my favourite kind of day out! The hubbie kindly obliged and booked a table as a surprise for me. He did well!
Artichokes are in season from November until May and at their peak during March and April. Noam's Artichokes was one of the first farms to grow the vegetable in Israel and now has three generations of farmers living and working there.
We arrived at 10am and the platters of rich artichoke-based foods had just been laid out. We had a full hour before the farm tour left to eat as much, or as little, as we wanted, and were soon munching on a range of artichoke salads, fresh homemade bread, incredible artichoke soup (even at 10am!), roasted artichoke, artichoke quiche, artichoke shakshouka... the list goes on. For 65NIS each person we ate well!
After an hour we took a tour of the farm. Noam, the owner, took his time to tell us about the history of the moshav and about the early days there, when the State of Israel was still new. The walk to the artichoke fields was accompanied by explanations about the fruit tree groves - the peach and nectarine trees were blossoming and looked beautiful - the olive trees, wheat fields and the greenhouse full of parsley and dill.
Noam told us about the wonderful qualities of the artichoke and how they are good for diabetes (apparently artichokes can be used to decrease or eliminate the need for insulin), for liver problems, and to treat hangovers! He picked a globe artichoke straight from the field and encouraged us to try it raw. I can't say that it did anything for me, though others seemed keen.
Back at the 'restaurant' - long benches set up outside his home - new guests were just digging into their artichoke soup whilst I picked out half a box of beautiful, fresh looking artichokes to take home. Noam assured us that they could be kept for up to three weeks in the fridge if they are put into a sealed plastic bag. I never found out if that is true because they didn't last that long! Boiled until tender and then cooled in a little cold water and drained, we ate them dipped in butter and lemon juice. Delicious!