“The artichoke, this fleshy vegetable, is less and less present in our menus”

“The artichoke, this fleshy vegetable, is less and less present in our menus”
“The artichoke, this fleshy vegetable, is less and less present in our menus”

“I don’t care much about artichokes.” This expression clearly illustrates the trend in France. This fleshy vegetable is less and less present in our menus. Only the oldest are still ready to cook and eat it. On average, a French household only consumes 750 grams per year. Compare to the 8 kilograms weighed down by the Italians, ready to fall for a tasty risotto with artichoke hearts.

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Breton market gardeners have no problem with this. United under the Prince de Bretagne vegetable banner, they went to the front to publicize their production. The artichoke makes hay. It is true that the images are beautiful. The shapely green heads stand on a carpet of foliage and the fields slide gently towards the ocean, more precisely in the bay of Morlaix.

Sometimes the blue postcard sky turns into a storm. Almost a year ago, tons of artichoke heads were rolling on the road in front of supermarkets. Red with anger, the farmers denounced the unremunerative prices for green vegetables. An influx of goods had caused prices to collapse. What part of the production has not found a buyer in 2023? “From 20% to 30%”replies Christian Bernard, producer in Taulé (Finistère) and president of the artichoke section of Prince de Bretagne.

A thorny problem

The blood rush is often linked to the clock market price. Currently, the price of the small Breton purple is 50 to 60 cents per head, and for its alter ego, the fleshier gros camus, the package of twelve is sold at 8 euros. Good weather, for now, with this price level. Remuneration is at the heart of generational renewal. However, there is an emergency. “We produced 17,000 tonnes of artichokes in 2023, compared to 30,000 tonnes ten years ago and 50,000 tonnes fifteen or twenty years ago. And the number of producers has been reduced by half”, underlines Mr. Bernard. Knowing that Brittany, with 2,600 hectares, is the leading land of artichokes in France, ahead of the Pyrénées-Orientales, with 500 hectares.

Although working farmers say they are passionate, they readily recognize that growing this thistle derivative is a thorny problem. In Brittany, the suckers, new shoots of the plant, are regularly pulled out and replanted by hand. The rate of crop renewal is three years, but no one can predict the yield year after year. To reduce production jolts and sell small sizes, Breton producers relied on freezing. Except that the only French site, in Morlaix, closed in 2022. Prince de Bretagne has taken the project head on and a processing unit should open in Côtes-d’Armor. In the frozen food section, artichokes often come from Egypt, the world’s second largest producer, neck and neck with Italy. He will soon be Costa Rican. Frozen artichoke heart hot like Breizh!

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