Artichoke eating is a hands-on affair and like cracking open a lobster, the journey is part of the event. The main edible portion of this immature flower is mainly the thickened receptacle (heart) and fleshy bases of the scales (bottom 1/3 of leaves). The taste is very mild with a meaty texture.
Technically a Mediterranean thistle, the artichoke plant grows as high as six feet, resembling a giant fern. When not harvested in the early stages of growth they transform into huge purple flowers. The tender, pale inner leaves have a nutty-flavour. To access the heart, a light layer of fuzz called the choke must be scrape off.
Baby or miniature Artichokes are harvested earlier for their tenderness and are considered a specialty variety.
Artichokes are available all year long, and peak from March through May. Yes, Ralph’s Farm Market does offer the Green Globe variety.
Up to a softball in size, look for heavy, uniformly coloured deep-green, tightly packed leaves and dark tips; avoiding those with heavy browning (a few brown spots are normal, generally indicating frost damage, and will not affect the flavour).
Tap the choke upside down in the sink…to ensure no bugs made their way into your kitchen. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Store unwashed artichokes in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. They can be frozen vegetable as well for longer storage durations.
If the leaves appear too open then it is past its prime, so the leaves may be tough. It’s still edible, however. Try making artichoke soup!
Just before cooking, wash artichoke under running cold water.
Step 1 Chop off the stem attached to the base to remove some of the hard fibres surrounding the base and remove the top portion of any coarse lower petals, leaving 1 1/2″ or so of the stem.
Step 2 Snip off thorny tips.
NOTE: Baby artichokes are a bit more tender than globe and do not need to be trimmed.
Hold the artichoke tightly and cut off the top 1/3 to 1/4. Use your best kitchen knife for this step!
To prevent browning, dip in lemon juice or vinegar.
Boiling and Steaming
Your pot (or steamer) should be sized to hold the artichokes upright. Lemons, garlic, and olive oil are commonly added to the cooking process.
When boiling, top with a plate or a lid smaller than your pot to keep them from floating above the water. Bring water to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook for about 25 to 30 minutes.
Artichokes are done when the leaves are darker, have loosened, and a fork easily slides into the center.
Drip dry upside down on a paper towel to drain excess water from inside the leaves.
Gently pull the leaves back to locate the fuzzy choke – the very center of the artichoke. Since it is not edible, use a spoon, grapefruit spoon, or melon baller to gently scoop out the choke. Serve immediately.
If only the artichoke hearts are to be prepared, chop off the top third of the artichoke to remove the leaves and remove any remaining leaves from around the base. Scoop out and discard the fibres that make up the choke with a spoon, grapefruit spoon, or melon baller. Place the small round flesh in water mixed with a small amount of lemon juice or vinegar, cooking it for 5 to 10 minutes.
The Green Globe is a good variety to marinate, to stuff with ingredients, to bake, broil, or to steam cook. There are wonderful health-conscious ways to savour an artichoke with very little butter:
Cooking They can be braised (covered pot with a small amount of liquid), sautéed, steamed. Serve whole but you may want to snip off the sharp points on the leaves.
For dipping Artichokes are a crowd-pleasing appetizer. Once steamed, simply snip off the sharp points, and serve. Try any of the following combinations:
roasted red pepper purée, a ‘Silken’ tofu-based garlic aioli
artichoke mixed with lemon-butter, or mayonnaise
sprinkle with salt
using only the hearts and stems, spinach & artichoke are a winning combination
How to Eat
Peel off the leaves and enjoy dipping them dipped in some lemon or butter or sprinkle with salt. When you get to the middle, use a grapefruit spoon to take out the choke and then enjoy the heart!
When serving, set an additional bowl on the table for any undesirable, discarded leaves. However, the leaves closest to the choke’s heart may be very tender and the whole cluster of leaves are frequently eaten.
Soup or Stew: The stem may be a little fibrous but has wonderful flavour cream so be sure to use them!
The Heart: This is the favourite part of the artichoke for some people. Add them to pasta with feta cheese, olives, fresh basil, and tomatoes to make a Mediterranean feast!
Baby or miniature Artichokes Boil as indicated above. To eat, simply pull off leaves, dip in lemon butter, vinaigrette, or sauce, and scrape the pulp with your teeth. Discard the remaining leaf.
Interestingly, the food you eat directly after eating artichokes may taste sweet due to the phenolic compounds of chlorogenic acid and cynarin. In fact, research is showing benefits to the liver from cynarin.
Silymarin is another compound found in artichokes that has powerful antioxidant properties and may help the liver regenerate healthy tissue. Artichokes are, also, one of the best sources of antioxidants, may help prevent cell damage that can lead to cancer, and protect against heart disease and aging. In addition, they aid in digestion and may even lower cholesterol!
Artichoke (raw), 1 medium
Total Fat: 0.19g
*Excellent source of: Vitamin C (15mg), and Folate (87mcg)
*Good source of: Magnesium (76.8mg), and Potassium (474mg)
*Foods that are an “excellent source” of a particular nutrient provide 20% or more of the Recommended Daily Value. Foods that are a “good source” of a particular nutrient provide between 10 and 20% of the Recommended Daily Value.
- Jerusalem artichokes or Sun Chokes are unrelated. This tuber is eaten raw or cooked. When raw, it is crispy and similar in texture to a water chestnut.
The earliest writings about artichokes were over 2000 years ago when they were considered a Roman luxury. However, its name did not reappear until the Renaissance in Italy which resulted in today’s globe artichoke, introduced to California by Spanish explorers in the late 1900s. Castroville, California claims to be the artichoke capital of the world and certainly produces for North America’s dinner tables.
Ancient civilizations considered artichokes to have many benefits: aphrodisiac, diuretic, breath freshener, and even deodorant. Liquid extracts of artichoke leaves have been used as blood cleansers – cholerics – to improve bile production and release, as well as detoxifying the body’s liver and skin.
Indirectly, the name artichoke comes from the Arabic al kharshuf, meaning “the thistle,” which was borrowed by the Spanish (alcahofa), altered by the Italians (articiocco), as well as the French (artichaut), until the English finally coined it artichoke. Get it…heart and choke put together.