To get there, we drove through Castroville, "Artichoke Center of the World." The main drag features a "giant artichoke" to celebrate this distinction. It's humorously ungiant. Marilyn Monroe, in 1948, reigned as the first artichoke queen, during the since-then-annual artichoke festival. I've never been (I tend to shun such festivals—artichoke ice cream, anyone?). But I do love to eat artichokes.
In the 1990s, I visited Mont St-Michel, Brittany, and was surprised to see fields of artichauts growing there, too. Indeed, the climate is very similar: cool, with the salty influence of the ocean. The sheep that graze on nearby fields are naturally tenderized by all that salt.
Around Castroville, though, no sheep; just cattle. But perhaps they're naturally tender as well.
Okay, I wasn't sure if I made that up about the tenderizing. But a little research gets me this, from the book 1,000 Foods to Eat before You Die, and an article about agneau de pré-salé:
Serious gourmet cooks consider buying preseasoned meat an unforgivable gaffe, anticipating commercial spice mixtures at best. But when the seasoner is Mother Nature herself, who can argue? Cavils end with a taste of the verdantly saline, lean lamb from France's coastal provinces of Normandy and, especially, Brittany. There, lambs and sheep graze on the reclaimed salt meadows known as prés-salés, nibbling random herbs and bits of sprightly green seaweed along the way (or, in the hills around Provence, on the wild lavender that lends sweet overtones to the meat). These agneaux (lamb) or moutons (mutton) de pré-salé are treasured marks of quality on menus and in butcher shops throughout France.Maybe we should be raising lambs here along the seashore?
But back to vegetables:
Today, we also drove past fields of lettuce, kale, brussels sprouts, strawberries. Probably lots of other produce as well, but I'm not good at recognizing plants.
When we stopped at the market on the way home to pick up something for dinner, I went straight for the brussels sprouts: seeing them growing au naturel ☛ made me crave them! And on the way out of the store, I plucked up a package of strawberries for dessert. Driscoll strawberries, out of Watsonville. The very area we were today. It's nice to be able to eat locally.
Though that said, I am now reminded to visit the local farmers markets more often: fresh local fare. It's not a habit of mine. But it would be a good one to cultivate, don't you think?