Artichoke Pickle Passion

Artichoke Pickle Passion


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



I researched the origin of artichokes for this poem, I learned that this vegetable was not

a “true” artichoke, but was the root of sunflowers. There is a whole farm for growing

and processing them in Hamilton, NC and I’m still a consumer




Artichoke Pickle Passion: A Sonnet

                             By Beverly Fields Burnette

In southern springs we dug for artichokes In Miz Olivia’s tall and weedy yard. She dipped her snuff, but never, ever smoked; At eighty-five, she wasn’t avant-garde. Her ‘bacco spittings grew the vegetable; Well nourished were the tubers, strong, the stalks. And even though their worth was questionable, With hoe in hand, we dug, postponing talk. Once washed, soaked, sliced, they met some torrid brine. Aromas flew on steamy clouds of heat. When canned, the waiting was the longest time. How many weeks or months before we eat? In southern springs, we dug the precious root, And still, this day, it is my passion fruit.

(From Catch the Fire!!!: A Cross-Generational Anthology of Contemporary African-American Poetry, Derrick I.M. Gilbert, editor)

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Beverly Fields Burnette is a storyteller (current President of the N.C. Association of Black Storytellers), a poet and school social worker. Her programs/performances consist of fun, creative ways of combining cultural insights with storytelling/folktales, and original and historical poetry for children and/or general audiences. She has led character education, self-esteem and drug prevention programs for churches and schools. Ms. Burnette enjoys teaching and telling folktales in the guise of Harlem Renaissance folklorist/anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston. Ms. Burnette is published in several national poetry anthologies. In 2001 and 2003 she wrote poems for the National Public Radio/PRI program “A Season’s Griot”, and in 2003 read her own poem on this program. She often collaborates/performs with other storytellers, drummers/musicians and poets.

Click here for information about booking Beverly Fields Burnette as a Touring Artist   Site: Http://  / photo right above Stonewall

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Hi Rudy

On Saturday, I just happened to be googling myself . . . just for fun . . . and I found that a previously published poem of mine,  “Artichoke Pickle Passion” had been printed in the Washington Post on April 17th.

I was surprised and thrilled!!!!  This was a poem that I had written about 10+ yrs. ago, and it was a memory poem about a time in the 1950s in Rocky Mount, NC, when my sister and I went with our aunt to dig up something called “artichokes.”

The yard we went into belonged to a soft spoken elderly lady named Miz Olivia…who lived up the street. Miz Olivia always sat on the front porch of her duplex wood frame apartment…or could be found leaning over the banister on her back porch watching people and traffic.  She usually wore a “stocking cap” on her head, a faded flowered dress, reddish-toned stocking that were rolled at the top of the calf of her leg, and knotted just below her knee,…and she always had her lip full of snuff!  

I recall not wanting to go dig in that yard, because all day long, she was spitting . . . spitting out her  ever-present snuff . . . spitting out that “tobacco juice!”  But, as children, we followed instructions, and we went and dug anyway. When we’d dug up those artichokes, and after they were transformed into a wonderful pickle, I could NOT get enough of them!  (Smile)

One Saturday afternoon in 1972, when I was pregnant with my first child, I asked my husband to drive me to Rocky Mount (120 miles round trip from our home in Kinston) so that I could buy some artichoke pickle from a local gourmet grocery store. He said “no”, as he didn’t realize how badly I craved those pickles. Therefore, I called my mother in Rocky Mount, and asked her if she would go to the store and buy two quarts of artichoke pickle for me, and then send them to me on a Trailways Bus that afternoon. She readily agreed ….and about 4 hrs later, I went down to the bus station and picked up my pickle package. Needless to say, I pigged out all weekend, until I was sick, yet happy!

Years later, as I researched the origin of artichokes for this poem, I learned that this vegetable was not a “true” artichoke, but was the root of sunflowers. There is a whole farm for growing and processing them in Hamilton, NC and I’m still a consumer, no pun intended! 

See Note: From NC State Dept. of Horticultural Science. The Jerusalem artichoke grows in most areas of North Carolina and is often used for pickling purposes. The fresh tuber tastes like a water chestnut and is used in salads. Tubers can also be cooked like potatoes. The edible portion of this member of the sunflower family is the tuber or swollen end of an underground stem, which in some respects resembles a potato.

Thanks for letting me share this poem and memory with you. The article that was in the Washington Post [04/17/2008] last Thursday is shown below.

Sincerely yours,

Beverly Fields Burnette,

Poet / Storyteller / School Social Worker/  Rocky Mount native

North Carolina Arts Council | Beverly Fields Burnette

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Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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posted 26 April 2008




Home   E Ethelbert Miller

Related files: Search for Black Men: Vietnam Post-Mortem  Searching for my Great Grandmother at Stonewall  Voices of the Culture   Artichoke Pickle Passion

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