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September 17, 2020

It’s a plant that could break your heart and make you choke.

Cynara cardunculus is one of the most ancient foods known to mankind and its legend harks back to a tragic lovestruck tale from Greek mythology.

The story goes that Zeus had grown rather bored of his wife and went to visit his brother Poseidon in the Aegean islands.

Here he spotted a beautiful young woman called Cynara who he fell head over heels in love with.
IMG_0210_20-09-16_Broken_Clock_Vodka_Jimson_weed.jpg The scoundrel made her a goddess so that she could live with the him in Mount Olympus as his mistress but Cynara soon became homesick and sneaked back to the mortal realm to visit her family.

Believing she had betrayed him, Zeus rather hastily flung a lightning bolt at his lover and turned her into this eye catching plant.

Millennia later the old English word for this edible thistle was ‘hartichoak’ eluding to the plant’s heart – its spikey edible head – which had a tendency to choke its eaters as well as taking over and ‘choking’ English gardens if allowed to do so.

Perhaps it’s some redemption for Zeus that he chose to turn poor Cynara into an artichoke as during flowering season it’s quite stunning, though this autumnal prickly artichoke at Gravetye Manor is rather more haunting than heartwarming.