Early summer in South Africa really is a wonderful thing. Especially in Joburg, where the sudden heat is mitigated by regular, wonderful thunderstorms, which wash the city clean, cool the air and make the nights tolerable. The heat and the wet also mean that suddenly the fruit and veggie shops are filled with the new season’s fruit and veg: September is broad beans, asparagus, the last of the blueberries, and the last small, sweet oranges of the spring. October sees prices coming down for my very favourite seasonal vegetable – the artichoke and the first crops of watermelon. By the end of this month (maybe early November, if the rain is heavy) we’ll be getting white peaches, and then the big yellow cling peaches, followed by grapes and nectarines and watermelons will be so cheap, you can afford to float them in the swimming pool to keep them cold.

So imagine my delight when we got a call from Manny and Dino at the veggie shop to say “come on down – artichokes are cheap!” they weren’t kidding. At R30 a box (about £2.50) I went a bit mad, and came home with three huge boxes. Aren’t they beautiful?


So most of Saturday was spent prepping all those artichokes. Some got eaten the traditional way – with most of their leaves on and melted butter. Others got stripped of outer leaves and chokes, and boiled in a water-vinegar mix, dressed with a vinaigrette and served up for Sunday lunch. The bulk, though, were stripped, cooked and frozen, so that in the dark, cold months of June and July, I’ll still be able to make artichoke and caper pasta, and dream of the bounty of spring…