When daffodils and primroses begin popping up in every field and forest, you will know artichoke season has arrived.

Artichoke (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)

For me, Tu Bishvat, which was last Thursday, signifies the height of winter.

When the daffodils and primroses began popping up in every field and forest, we set out on a trip to Moshav Nir Banim in the south.
This year, though, we went to see something completely different: artichokes.
On our drive south we took in the breathtaking views of the open fields, and our bodies and minds slowly relaxed as we got farther and farther away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Nir Banim, located next to Kiryat Gat, is always quiet and relaxing.
The moshav was founded in 1935 by men and women who had grown up in more established cooperatives and sought to create a new community of their own.
Children of moshav members often left to build new farms; each person was allocated rights to a Jewish Agency house with all its amenities (namely a bathroom inside the house), a cowshed, half a horse and half a cart.
Since so many young people have left over the years, only 10 families still live on the moshav. One such person is Noam Ya’acova, the founder of Noam’s Artichokes, one of the 15 large artichoke farms in Israel. Ya’acova’s mission is to educate people all over Israel about artichokes. He personally grows them on a 40-hectare (100-acre) lot.
Artichokes are perennials that are harvested between November and May, so we are in the height of the season right now, and more than 60 percent of the artichoke crop still needs to be picked by the end of the season.
Artichokes, which are not commonly found in Israeli kitchens, have many medicinal qualities. They are rich in iron, help reduce blood pressure and aid in liver detoxification.
Ya’acova even has a surprising tip: If you eat an artichoke before drinking alcohol, you won’t have such a bad hangover.
Noam’s Artichokes offers a variety of activities for the whole family, including a buffet that teaches about the purity of artichokes and gives guided tours of the artichoke fields, which include detailed explanations and a chance to participate in an actual harvest. If you’re interested in participating in the tour, you’ll need rubber boots, a large backpack for the artichokes and a walking stick. This tour is especially enjoyable for children, who love skipping through muddy fields and hiding in the bushes.
When you’ve finished walking through the quiet streets of the moshav, where all you will hear is the distant barking of dogs, birds chirping and the wind blowing, you’ll reach the fields where figs, wheat, cotton, dates and olives are grown. You will also see a vineyard belonging to the Ya’acova family, where they grow red grapes that will be naturally dried in the sun to make raisins.
After hearing Ya’acova’s short explanation of the various grape strains, the tour continues to the artichoke field. Artichokes need to be picked by chopping down the stalk with a knife, since the bushes have prickles and they are not harmed much by being cut. When your backpack is full to capacity, it’s time to retrace your steps and return to the farmhouse, where you can enjoy the buffet of delicacies made from artichokes.
These foods will certainly make you want to come back again and participate in the workshops that Ya’acova holds every Thursday with chef Iris Levy.
On your drive home, I recommend stopping at Yelena Kalichman’s Lev Ha’ir art gallery and store in Gedera, where you will see miniature plants created by Kalichman.
Kalichman began making these metal creations just six months ago after falling in love with miniature gardens. You can see the legendary sculpture gardens, which have swings and ceramic animals – a must for anyone who likes miniatures. To make an appointment, call 052-577-8963.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.
Location: Nir Banim.
Level of difficulty: Easy, appropriate for families with children.
Length: 2-3 hours, on weekends only.
Season: Winter.
Directions: Drive to Moshav Nir Banim on Road 40. Follow signs to the Ya’acova Farm.
Tours cost between NIS 20 and NIS100, depending on package. Italian Brunch offered on Fridays.
For more details: 054-227-8637 or