76: kronärtskocka

Not long after arriving in Sweden, I went to a dinner; the first course was soup; the soup was kronärtskocka. It took us  a while to work out the translation, but then it’s obvious enough that ärtskocka = artichoke. Both the Swedish and the English derive from the Italian arcicioffo (artichokes being native to southern Europe), and ultimately from Arabic.

Or rather, kronärtskocka = globe artichoke, Cynara scolymus. The other thing we call an artichoke in both Swedish and English is Helicanthus tuberosus, the Jerusalem artichoke or jordärtskocka, which is a sunflower, not an artichoke (although both are members of the Family Asteraceae), and has nothing to do with Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem artichoke is native to North America, and it’s said that its English name derives from the Italian girasole, sunflower, which it resembles, and the fact that the edible root tastes like artichoke, according to the explorer Samuel de Champlain. Speaking of tastes, I’d like someday to try that other cousin of the globe artichoke, the cardoon, Cynara cardunculus, which apparently has a very sexy flavour.

The Swedish names for these vegetables are certainly more descriptive than the English: kron (crown) is the top of the plant, while jord (earth) is the root.

It’s difficult to look up words like kronärtskocka in the Swedish Academy’s wonderful dictionary, SAOB. The entry for kronärtskocka has the derivation as kron + ärtskocka, but unfortunately SAOB hasn’t got that far yet: as of this writing, the dictionary is up to the word tyna. In the Swedish alphabet, words starting with å-, ä-, and ö- come after z- words.

Trying to work out the translation of ärtskocka, one dead end is that it has nothing to do with ärt = pea. But there’s apparently another subtle distinction in Swedish: ärt (plural ärter) is the plant, while ärta (plural ärtor) is the little green seed (frö). If that seems too complicated, just remember ärtsoppa. Mmmm….! Who needs cardoons? Or artichoke soup, come to think of it.

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Published in: on January 9, 2012 at 11:57  Comments (1)  
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