THE INTERACTIVE THISTLE: Some greens can be eaten neat. No dressing or sauces or toppings are required to enjoy a stalk of celery (sorry, peanut butter enthusiasts) or a head of iceberg lettuce (ditto, blue cheese lovers). But the artichoke? We're in more controversial territory now. You probably are not acquainted with an artichoke aficionado who eats those point leaves straight-up. Sure, maybe the heart, maaaaybe, but we're talking the scrape-with-the-teeth leaves. If ever there was a delivery-system edible, it is the artichoke, meaning that it has been long paired with aioli and mayonnaise and hollandiase and all of the other -aises. It's also one of the only plants that boasts two entirely different things going on, in the how-we-eat-it department, and we're willing to lay down a jar of pricey dipping oil that most fans favor the heart. You can find out yourself if that is true, at least anecdotally, if you happen to be in Castroville on Saturday, May 18 and Sunday, May 19.
ARTICHOKE DAYS: Castroville's celebrity food makes several appearances over the weekend festival, notably in the cooking demos. You're liable to see a guy, though, walking around in a giant squishy artichoke suit, too. (Is he a cousin to the guy who walks around dressed as a garlic bulb in Gilroy? We have theories.) A car show, a parade, and wine doings round out the foodie good times. Oh, speaking of the Garlic Festival -- have you ever seen an artichoke-based dessert at the Castroville confab? Garlic pops up in sweets more and more, but the chokey still hasn't cracked that market. Culinary adventurers and brilliant home cooks, this could be territory worth exploring. What if the requisite dipping sauce wasn't savory but something chocolate? If there was ever a place to be inspired, it's down Castroville-way.