Top 5 Questions We're Asked On Artichoke Field Tours
If you’ve seen our Instagram stories over the last month, you'll know that we’ve been out in the artichoke fields showing future ag leaders and chefs-in-training what the life of an Ocean Mist Farms artichoke looks like from seed to shelf.
Ocean Mist Farms is a huge supporter of education- whether it be showing chefs where the artichokes they prepare come from, giving college students exposure to the field (no pun intended), even just writing this blog post to give our customers (hello you!) a better understanding of how our artichokes make it to your plate. Although we don't offer field tours to the general public, you will have the opportunity to experience one at the 60th Annual Castroville Artichoke Food & Wine Festival this coming weekend, June 1st and 2nd.
Last month, we hosted chefs-in-training from the Culinary Institute of America, who had a
hands-on lesson about how our expert harvesters select artichokes.
Let me tell you, we get quite the assortment of questions (all equally valid. no doubt!) when we’re on these field tours from , "Is our Ocean Mist Farms tour guide related to Ryan Reynolds?” to “What is an artichoke? I’ve never seen one before." But seriously, 9 times out of 10 it always comes back to our Gold Standard artichokes, and how are they grown and harvested.
Keep reading to find out the answers to the top 5 most popular questions we're asked about the life of an artichoke!
1. How many artichokes does Ocean Mist Farms produce per year?
About 99% of North American artichokes are harvested in California, with Ocean Mist Farms being the largest and only year-round producer of fresh artichokes in North America. This past year alone, Ocean Mist Farms harvested and packed 61.6 million pounds of artichokes.
Let that sink in....61.6 million pounds!
2. How are they grown?
Artichokes are an annual plant grown from proprietary seed varieties, which are tested and selected by our in-house R&D team, for each of our artichoke growing regions Seeds are started in trays in the greenhouse until the plant reaches about 5 inches in height (about 45-60 days), then transplanted into the field. At Ocean Mist Farms, we use custom made field machines to transplant these seedlings. From seed to full maturity, it takes an average of 210 days to grow.
3. What is the lifespan on each plant? What happens to the plant at the end of the season?
Our artichoke plants have a lifespan of about 6 months and only yield a single shoot. This single shoot produces one stalk yielding 10-12 artichokes ranging in size from small to jumbo.
At full maturity, the plant grows to a width of about 6 feet and a height of 3 to 4 feet. When the production cycle ends, the remaining artichoke plant is tilled back into the soil for optimal soil nutrition in preparation for the next crop rotation.
4. How are the artichokes harvested?
Undergrad ag students with the PMA Center for Growing Talent saw firsthand
how our expert harvesting team harvest and carry artichokes using red canastas.
Each harvester hand-cuts and tosses every harvest-ready artichoke into the red canasta on their back. By the time each canasta is filled to the top, it weighs 100 lbs.- the equivalent of 4 to 5 cases of artichokes!
As each canasta is filled, it is emptied into a harvest machine in the field, where it is hand sorted by artichoke size, packed, stacked, and transported to our cooler within 4 hours of being cut and cooled for no less than 55 minutes before loading on a truck to transport!
5. How many times a season do the harvesters go through each field?
Short answer: A LOT!
There is far more skill required to harvest artichokes than what meets the eye. It's so specialized that we have a dedicated team of highly-trained artichoke harvesters go through each artichoke field multiple times- about 10 to 25 times per season- selecting the best artichokes when the artichoke size and stem diameter are just perfect.
And there you have it, the top 5 questions we're asked about the life of an artichoke! As you can see, there is a lot that goes into producing an artichoke and we owe all of our success to our Ocean Mist Farms employees!