Kitchen Tips

Globe artichokes are a family business at Ohaene Organics

Taste magazine visits Ohaene Organics in the Kauaeranga Valley, a family business that's living sustainably and growing a range of fruit and vegetables, including the delicious, exotic globe artichoke.

By Tracey Sunderland
Peter and Angelika left their home near Stuttgart and immigrated to New Zealand with their four children in the mid 1990s. Their dream was to develop an organic farm and, after an earlier visit, they were convinced New Zealand was the place to do it. In 1997, Peter built the family home on a bare block in the Kauaeranga Valley and planted 2000 trees as shelter belts and for firewood. The family have been living sustainably on the land ever since.
Peter, Angelika and son Korbinian enjoy a cuppa in the garden.
Along with their eldest son, Korbinian, Peter and Angelika grow a range of organic fruit and vegetables, specialising in potatoes (they concentrate on two varieties which are suited to organic gardening: Rocket, which is a bit like Agria, and Red Rascal). They also grow a range of heritage apples. They are certified with the OrganicFarmNZ organisation, which uses internationally recognised certifier BioGro's organic standards but is a lower-cost option for farmers who don't intend to export their crops.
Employing the age-old practice of companion planting, the Poschls grow groups of crops to deter pests and nourish the soil. When Taste visited we spotted patches of new-season Rocket potatoes, garlic, comfrey, Smyrna quince trees, pumpkins, heritage tomatoes, grapes, apples and, of course, artichokes.
Peter Schmuck-Poschl with dog Cicek (Turkish for 'flower').
Peter and Angelika began growing artichokes 12 years ago. Peter initially tried planting on various parts of the property and found the plants preferred fertile, free-draining soil and 'dry feet'. Artichokes love sunshine and grow best in parts of New Zealand that have hot, dry summers and fairly cold winters – their silver foliage is perfectly adapted to reflect the heat. The flower heads appear in early spring and are harvested in late September and October for availability in stores for about four to six weeks or until the heat of summer hits and the purple flowers bloom.
Fresh artichokes have a reputation for being tricky to prepare and a little fiddly to eat, which is why many food lovers have never tackled them. Most are familiar with the pickled version, but the flavour of fresh artichokes is something quite special.
Artichokes may seem tricky to prepare but you can do it quite simply.
The simplest way to enjoy a fresh artichoke is to simmer it in salted, boiling water then pull it out and simply open it up with your fingers. Serve it hot with butter or a favourite dipping sauce. Pick each leaf (starting with the outside ones), dip it in the sauce and suck on it, scraping the soft flesh against your teeth before discarding the fibrous remains. The fuzzy 'choke' can be delicious if it is soft, fresh and young; otherwise scrape it out and discard to reveal the fragrant, tender heart beneath, which you can dip in sauce to eat.
Artichokes love hot, dry summers and fairly cold winters.
As well as working the farm, Angelika and Peter manage the weekly Thames Farmers' Market on Pollen Street, which runs on Saturday mornings and supports producers from all over the peninsula; they also visit the Hamilton Farmers' Market on Sundays. When they are in season, you can buy their artichokes at both markets along with the family's other organic produce. They also sell artichokes to Auckland suppliers as their farm produces more flowers than the locals can snack through.
This originally appeared in Taste magazine.
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