Name: Casi Richie
Farm: Life’s A Choke Family Farm
Location: Central & Floradale avenues, Lompoc, CA 93436
What They Grow: Known for their beautiful artichokes, the farm also specializes in pencil asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and colorful squash blossoms.
Where to Buy: Farmers markets, including Tuesday in downtown Santa Barbara, Wednesday in Solvang, Saturday in downtown Santa Barbara, and Sunday in Ojai (as well as multiple Los Angeles markets). Additionally, the popular artichokes and asparagus are frequently featured on the menus of Wine Cask, Blue Agave, and Arlington Tavern.
In Season Now: A year-round treat, the farm specializes in baby artichokes, as well as traditional globe and Euro varietals. The baby artichokes, rich and flavorful, have no center “choke,” making them easier to peel and enjoy.
Their Story: “The heavier the choke, the meatier the choke,” said Casi Richie, offering each customer a lesson in hand-selecting the perfect artichoke. When looking for an artichoke, it is suggested to look for one with a thick stem, which signifies a bigger heart, and therefore meatier. The farm has perfected the art of growing artichokes on 65 acres of rich soil in the Lompoc valley.
“Lompoc offers the perfect weather for growing artichokes: not too hot and not too cold,” said Richie. “The temperate climate really helps, in addition to our sandy soil, offering perfect conditions for growing great chokes!”
A family friend of farmer Phil Green, Richie enjoys working the markets, in addition to offering recipes and cooking tips for making tasty and flavorful artichokes, asparagus, or savory squash blossoms.
“I love meeting all kinds of people, but it’s especially fun seeing kids excited about vegetables,” said Richie. “It’s great being around so much fresh produce … . I love taking it home and enjoying the great products we sell.”
Grilled Baby Artichokes
Peel artichoke until light green (3-4 layers). Trim top and bottom. Cut in half. Brush with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine, and grill until tender.