Texas growers eye artichoke market - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Texas growers eye artichoke market

Uvalde_California has long had an arti-chokehold on the spiny-leafed vegetable industry in the United States.

The unusual-looking vegetable, used in dips and salads or eaten alone with melted butter or mayonnaise, is a finicky grower. It finds the consistent climate in the northern part of the Golden State to its liking, but almost nowhere else in the United States.

Now Texas is trying to break California's dominance, or at least make it work a little harder for it.

A Texas A&M University researcher and a commercial grower in southern Texas are on a quest to use the area's Winter Garden region, with its cool wintertime temperatures, to grow artichokes comparable to California's finest.

"Our goal is to provide another product for the Winter Garden area to enhance the local economy," said Daniel Leskovar, a professor of vegetable physiology at Texas A&M's Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Uvalde, about 80 miles west of San Antonio. The Winter Garden region already produces cabbage, onions, carrots and broccoli.

While Leskovar, who has experimented with artichokes for three years, has no illusions that Texas could ever really grow as many artichokes as California, he said the heads grown here can be "as good or better" than those from out West.

"We're not trying to compete with California in terms of the production cycle because they have the climate," he said.

California has artichoke weather year-round, but the Winter Garden area averages 65 degrees from September through May, providing plenty of harvesting time and the perfect weather for the plants to thrive, Leskovar said.

Still, some are skeptical.

"God bless them," said Pat Hopper, manager for California Artichoke Advisory Board in Castroville, the self-proclaimed "Artichoke Center of the World."

"These guys in Texas don't know what they're in for" with the sensitive plant, Hopper said. "I would wish them luck in finding a market in Texas. Texas is not one of our best buyers of artichokes."

But Jerry Van Damme, a partner of a farm in D'Hanis, disputes that claim. Last year, Texas' H.E. Butt Grocery Company, whose retail outlets are known as HEB, bought all 600 cartons of artichokes he harvested, Van Damme said. He hopes to double his harvest next spring.

"They wanted more of them," he said. "They said that the consumer, getting feedback, was telling them how much better the flavor was. They're not as big, but the flavor is better, the hearts were better."

HEB spokeswoman Dya Campos said the grocer plans to buy Van Damme's artichokes again this year.

California is by far the nation's biggest harvester of artichokes for sale.

The 2002 USDA census, the most recent data available, showed that California has 83 farms that harvested more than 7,700 acres of artichokes. Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and Arizona followed, each with fewer than five farms.

In Texas, the plants are grown first for six to eight weeks in a greenhouse, then planted in the ground. Greenhouse-nurtured plants are also used in California, said Richard Smith, University of California Cooperative Extension Farm adviser for Monterey County, and that method opens the door to success in more markets.

But California also grows perennial artichoke plants, which require a year-round cool climate that Texas doesn't have, Smith said. The perennials stay in the ground for up to 10 years and generally produce a higher quality artichoke head, though they are more expensive to maintain.

"If they have a market and they're closer to that market, it could really work out," Smith said of Texas' efforts.

___

On the Net:

Texas A&M program: http://uvalde.tamu.edu

Elizabeth White, AP Writer © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Local NewsNewsMore>>

  • Trump to DOJ: Investigate whether FBI infiltrated campaign

    Trump to DOJ: Investigate whether FBI infiltrated campaign

    Monday, May 21 2018 12:51 AM EDT2018-05-21 04:51:49 GMT
    Monday, May 21 2018 9:13 AM EDT2018-05-21 13:13:29 GMT
    (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File). FILE - In this Thursday, May 17, 2018, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, in Washington. Trump said he will "demand" that the Justice Department open ...(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File). FILE - In this Thursday, May 17, 2018, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, in Washington. Trump said he will "demand" that the Justice Department open ...

    Trump's demand puts further pressure on the Justice Department, which later Sunday asked its watchdog to expand an existing probe of FBI actions, as the White House combats the threat posed by special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation.

    Trump's demand puts further pressure on the Justice Department, which later Sunday asked its watchdog to expand an existing probe of FBI actions, as the White House combats the threat posed by special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation.

  • School victims honored at Billboard Awards; Janet, BTS shine

    School victims honored at Billboard Awards; Janet, BTS shine

    Sunday, May 20 2018 10:51 AM EDT2018-05-20 14:51:24 GMT
    Monday, May 21 2018 9:13 AM EDT2018-05-21 13:13:25 GMT
    (AP Photos/Invision, File). FILE - In a May 7, 2018, file photo, Ariana Grande, left, attends The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating the opening of the Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination exhibitio...(AP Photos/Invision, File). FILE - In a May 7, 2018, file photo, Ariana Grande, left, attends The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating the opening of the Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination exhibitio...
    After celebrating her 52nd birthday and the 25th anniversary of her groundbreaking "janet.".
    After celebrating her 52nd birthday and the 25th anniversary of her groundbreaking "janet.".
  • Average price of US gas jumps 10 cents, to $3 a gallon

    Average price of US gas jumps 10 cents, to $3 a gallon

    Sunday, May 20 2018 1:31 PM EDT2018-05-20 17:31:27 GMT
    Monday, May 21 2018 9:12 AM EDT2018-05-21 13:12:16 GMT
    The average price of regular-grade gasoline in the U.S. jumped 10 cents a gallon over the past two weeks to $3.00. (Source: Raycom Image Bank)The average price of regular-grade gasoline in the U.S. jumped 10 cents a gallon over the past two weeks to $3.00. (Source: Raycom Image Bank)

    The average price of regular-grade gasoline in the U.S. jumped 10 cents a gallon over the past two weeks to $3.00.

    The average price of regular-grade gasoline in the U.S. jumped 10 cents a gallon over the past two weeks to $3.00.

Powered by Frankly