Artichoke production in Murcia has increased tenfold in a decade. In the second half of the 1980s, artichoke production exceeded 100,000 tons (a figure that is similar to the current production volume). Murcia's artichoke was of interest to the Roman Empire and, much later, to the Arabs who dominated that region.
In fact, "there have always been small quantities of artichokes in all the plains of the rivers of the Iberian peninsula," stated Antonio Galindo, the president of the Artichoke Association of Spain and producers from Murcia. However, its expansion in the Region of Murcia only started in the last century, after the end of Algeria's independence war.
"The purple artichoke arrived in the 1960s brought by the French," says Galindo. Algeria's independence left around 500,000 dead and forced the French to "look for new cultivation areas in winter."
"The French brought artichoke slips or divisions and gave them to farmers in the Vega Baja del Segura (Almoradí and Callosa). The crop was quickly taken to Lorca and Campo de Cartagena, which have a warm climate, and to make use of the areas' few good quality water wells for the development of production," he stated. The subsequent Tagus-Segura water transfer work increased the possibilities of this vegetable in the region. After this, it started to win over markets.
Later, artichoke production returned to North Africa, which had lower labor costs. This, in turn, gave way to the entry of white artichoke as an alternative in Murcia, which was mainly sought after by the artichoke heart industry. The arrival of this variety, coupled with the change in eating habits that focus more on eating healthy, reactivated the demand for fresh produce.
Nutritionists and dietitians started to recommend it more and more thanks to its enormous health benefits, Galindo stated. "Nowadays, many consumers consider this vegetable a staple food," he stated.