Marilyn Monroe Was Once Crowned 'Queen Of Californian Artichokes'

For as long as people have been harvesting food, they've been having harvest festivals. Although many of these festivals have reduced in size and significance over the centuries, many rural and semi-rural communities in the U.S. still celebrate completed harvests with local festivities and while many people may be familiar with local apple or pumpkin fests in autumn, or even larger events like the National Cherry Festival in Michigan each summer, one much smaller festival in California boasts one very famous former participant.

Artichokes, which the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction notes are cousins of the sunflower descended from North African thistles and native to the Mediterranean region, were first brought to the Louisiana territory by the French in the early 1800s. However, it was Italian immigrants who made the plant catch on when they brought them to the Monterey Peninsula of California in 1922, per

To this day, nearly all of the artichokes sold in the U.S. are grown around Castroville, California, which is why the town has claimed the title of "Artichoke Capital of the World" and created a festival to celebrate the region's predominant crop.

The artichoke queen

In 1944, eleven years before the annual Artichoke Festival began in 1959 in Castroville, (per they were in need of someone to represent it. With their first choice unavailable, Medium reports, they turned to their second choice: an up-and-coming model who had appeared in small film roles named Norma Jean Baker. And, as fans now know well, this very woman went on to become one of the most in demand actresses in Hollywood of her time under the stage name Marilyn Monroe.

The then 22-year-old Monroe was given the title mostly because she was available and was crowned as the Artichoke Queen, or "Queen of Californian Artichokes," per Fine Dining Lovers, in February 1948 at the start of the artichoke harvest season, which the California Artichoke Advisory Board notes is in its peak between March and May. 

Today the festival is still held annually, though it has moved from the start of the season to the end of the season and runs in June, when it serves as a fundraising event for a number of local community and school organizations.