In the early 1900s, millions of Italians immigrated to the United States.

And with them came the demand for foods from their homeland. One of the most popular items was the artichoke, which wasn’t easy to grow in America and had to be imported. Ciro Terranova, a New York City gangster, started a racket in which he would force importers to sell him artichokes at a fraction of the cost. Then the Artichoke King, as he became known, would turn around and sell them to restaurants at a much higher cost. Terranova became such a problem that the mayor of New York had to outright ban the sale of artichokes until the cops could crack down on him. This only made the vegetable more popular.

On National Artichoke Hearts Day, we celebrate a delicacy that’s so good its practically criminal.