Castroville, the Artichoke Capital of the World, is located nine miles northwest of the city of Salinas. It is called this because this small city, that only has a population of 6,742, supplies seventy-five percent of the artichokes sold in the United States.
One of the most notable events held every year in this pleasant rural town is the Castroville Artichoke Festival, which takes place on Memorial Day. Every year, the Festival crowns a King and a Queen. In February of 1948, Marilyn Monroe was crowned Artichoke Queen and William Hung (the American Idol contestant) was crowned Artichoke King in 2006.
The Castroville Artichoke festival also features a parade and an art competition in which competitors make sculptures from artichokes and other vegetables. Foodies also flock from miles around to sample the treats produced by the produce and wine vendors in the area. There are usually cooking demonstration, arts, crafts, theatrical and musical performances and visits by celebrities. There is also an antique car show that takes place as a component of the festival as well.
This old town was founded by Juan Bautista Castro in 1863. Aside from artichokes it is known for it’s wonderful mix of Victorian and Spanish architecture. The original old school house and post office, both built in the 1860s, are still there.
A wonderful, eccentric landmark is The World’s Largest Artichoke which was a sculpture commissioned in 1963 for a road-side stand. The artichoke is twenty feet tall and twelve feet across and stands on Merrit Street in downtown Castroville.
Culinary-wise this town is known for its dishes and street food based on artichokes.
A specialty of restaurants in the area are deep-fried artichoke hearts. These are artichokes dipped in batter, fried in a vat and then served up with all kinds of delicious sauces. Hot and cheesy artichoke dip is also a specialty of many local restaurants, especially when the artichoke is in season. These types of treats go well with the wines that are grown in nearby vineyards along Highway 101 and just south of the hills of the city of Salinas.
As the town is so small there are not many hotels to stay in during the Artichoke Festival. However the towns of Salinas, Seaside, Marina, Watsonville and Monterey are not that far away and are home to many beautiful hotels that often run shuttle buses to and from the Artichoke festival. This spares you the problem of driving along California highways inebriated from enjoying the many California wines that are often offered with the artichoke delights offered at the festival.