During the typical two-day Festival, daily crowds top 20,000 people. Sip and quaff favorite beverages in the Wine, Beer & Spirits Garden, and listen to live music. Watch professional chefs demonstrate how to prepare artichokes and much more, then load up your car with fresh produce from the farmers market.
There’s even an unusual Agro Art competition. Participants create three-dimensional fruit and vegetable sculptures in front of festival attendees, for a chance to win a total of $5,000 cash prizes. Perhaps the best way to understand why Castroville is considered the Artichoke Center of the World is to take a 90-minute educational tour of artichoke fields. The California Artichoke Advisory Board sponsors this activity, with advance ticket purchases required.
Italian immigrant, Andrew Molera, got things started during the 1920s, when he planted an acre of artichokes on his ranch. Two years later, Angelo del Chiaro and his cousin leased 150 acres from Molera, which significantly expanded the crop size. Within a few short years 12,000 acres in California – most in Castroville – produced artichokes. Today, Castroville-based Ocean Mist Farms is the nation’s largest artichoke producer.
No matter what time of year you visit, artichokes star in packaged foods too. Purchase items such as artichoke Parmesan pasta sauce, artichoke seasoning, and artichoke pesto. If you time it right, you may also get to order fresh, fried or steamed artichokes from an onsite food truck.
The restaurant is famous for fried artichokes served with a choice of dipping sauces. In addition, try an artichoke dip with jalapeno or spinach; artichoke salad; artichoke and angel hair pasta; meatloaf with roasted veggies and artichokes; or The Giant Artichoke Burger. You may even find artichoke cupcakes on the menu.
If you love artichokes, be sure to visit Castroville when you're in California, for sights and tastes of the freshest artichokes available in the U.S.
Please note: As a writer associated with the travel industry, I received a complimentary tour and samples, for the purpose of this review. While it has not influenced this post, I wish to disclose all potential conflicts of interest.