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The Surprising Connection: Artichokes and the Mafia’s Downfall in New York City

The bizarre reason artichokes were briefly banned in New York City

The unusual connection between artichokes and the Mafia

Throughout history, there have been numerous bans imposed for various reasons. From the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s to the ban on chewing gum in Singapore, these bans often reflect societal concerns of the time. However, one ban in particular stands out as quite bizarre: the brief ban on artichokes in New York City. Surprisingly, this ban had an unexpected connection to the mafia that developed in the 1930s (via Mashed).

The mayor’s unusual ban

Imagine being transported back to December 21, 1935. The Bronx Terminal Market is bustling with activity as workers go about their early morning routines. Suddenly, the atmosphere changes when a group of policemen, accompanied by New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, make an unexpected appearance (via Mashed).
Amidst a fanfare of trumpets, Mayor LaGuardia climbs onto the back of a vegetable truck and declares a ban on baby artichokes. This peculiar ban leaves many puzzled, questioning the motives behind such a seemingly odd prohibition. Little did they know that there was more to the story than meets the eye.

Uncovering the hidden trade

As it turns out, the ban on baby artichokes was a strategic move by Mayor LaGuardia to disrupt the operations of the Morello crime family without jeopardizing the ongoing investigation into their counterfeit money operation. The New York City Department of Records and Information Services reveals that the baby artichoke trade, prevalent in Italian neighborhoods, had managed to evade police surveillance and fly under the radar of law enforcement and the Secret Service (via Mashed).
By imposing the ban, Mayor LaGuardia effectively disrupted the crime family’s artichoke-based extortion racket. At the center of this operation was a man known as “The Artichoke King,” Ciro Terranova. Terranova, notorious for his violent reputation, had capitalized on the limited availability of artichokes due to their specific climate requirements (via Mashed).

The reign of the artichoke king

Ciro Terranova, aka “The Artichoke King,” was no stranger to criminal activity. With a rap sheet that included offenses such as disorderly conduct, murder, robbery, and being a material witness in murder cases, Terranova had already established himself as a formidable figure in the criminal underworld by the early 1920s (via Mashed).
Recognizing the potential for profit in the artichoke trade, Terranova cornered the market and amassed an estimated $10 million between 1925 and 1935. The racket operated through a typical extortion scheme, with vendors buying artichokes from the gangsters at whatever price the gangsters set, under threat of severe consequences (via Mashed).

The fall of the artichoke racket

Just three days after Mayor LaGuardia’s proclamation, law enforcement authorities arrested the gangsters involved in Terranova’s extortion racket. With their arrest, the ban on artichokes was lifted, signaling the end of the illicit trade and the downfall of “The Artichoke King” (via Mashed).

A remarkable connection

The bizarre ban on artichokes in New York City was not just a whimsical act by Mayor LaGuardia, but a calculated move to disrupt the criminal activities associated with the Morello crime family. By targeting the artichoke trade, the Mayor effectively undermined the Mafia’s influence while protecting the investigation into their counterfeiting operation (via Mashed).
This unusual chapter in New York City’s history serves as a testament to the intricate connections between seemingly unrelated aspects of society. It reminds us that sometimes the most unexpected connections can shed light on the hidden undercurrents that shape our world.


The temporary ban on artichokes in New York City may be one of the strangest bans in history. But it was a ban with a purpose. By disrupting the artichoke trade, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia successfully targeted the Morello crime family’s extortion racket and protected the investigation into their counterfeiting operation. This fascinating story serves as a reminder that history often holds unexpected connections and reveals the intricate web of relationships between different aspects of society.


Why have artichokes been banned in New York City?

Artichokes were briefly banned in New York City in the 1930s as a strategic move by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia to disrupt the operations of the Morello crime family, which was involved in an artichoke extortion racket.

What was the connection between artichokes and the Mafia?

The connection between artichokes and the Mafia was that the Morello crime family had established control over the artichoke trade in New York City and used it as a means of extortion and illegal profit.

Who was the “Artichoke King”?

“The Artichoke King” was Ciro Terranova, a prominent figure in the Morello crime family who orchestrated and profited immensely from the artichoke extortion racket.

How did the ban on artichokes help dismantle the Mafia’s operations?

Mayor LaGuardia’s ban on artichokes disrupted the Morello crime family’s operations by cutting off their source of income and undermining their influence in the artichoke trade. This allowed law enforcement to arrest gang members involved in the extortion racket.

How long did the artichoke ban last?

The artichoke ban in New York City was brief, lasting only a few days. It was lifted shortly after the arrests of gang members involved in the artichoke extortion scheme.

What was the significance of the artichoke ban in the history of New York City?

The artichoke ban is significant as a peculiar chapter in the history of New York City because it demonstrates the unexpected connections between seemingly unrelated aspects of society, such as artichokes and organized crime. It highlights the complexity of social dynamics and the lengths to which authorities will go to disrupt criminal activity.

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