CASTROVILLE, Calif. — By the second week of April, peak season for artichokes had arrived. The crop’s top grower, Ocean Mist Farms, expects high volumes to hit retail shelves into early May.

“We’re going to have very good supplies for the next six to eight weeks,” Dale Huss, vice president for artichoke production at Castroville, Calif.-based Ocean Mist said April 6.

“About a month ago, we had periods of frost that pushed back April production, but now we’ve got strong volumes right into May,” he said. “It’s a normal springtime push, and quality is excellent.”

At present, California accounts for nearly all artichoke production.

“Mexico has really slowed down,” Huss said.

Ocean Mist concentrates on perennials — green globe artichokes — in Castroville. The company also grows annuals during its winter desert deal, which finished up in mid-March in the Coachella Valley, said Art Barrientos, vice president for harvesting.

“We’re gearing up for our spring push,” Barrientos said April 11. “The plants are really in a vigorous growth mode. We did have a light frost, but there’s nothing to hinder overall quality.”

Artichoke marketing

On the marketing side, Ocean Mist geared up to move product by offering its second consumer sweepstakes, Take Your Pic, through April.

The grower-shipper invited shoppers to photograph fresh artichokes on promotion in retail displays and print and online ads to qualify for a weekly $2,000 prize.

To qualify, participants must be members of Ocean Mist’s Artichoke Aficionados club, available online. Entry photos were to be submitted to a mobile site.

Last year’s sweepstakes helped push club membership above 33,000, said Kori Tuggle, director of marketing and business development.

Ocean Mist has promoted the sweepstakes with display contests, in-store signs, artichoke petal inserts and on Facebook and Twitter. Point-of-sale material is available on the ocean mist website or the trade order portal.