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Artichokes take a little effort when it comes to preparation and cooking but yield a mild, ‘nutty’ flavour that compliments a variety of foods. Artichokes are used for main dishes, side dishes, appetizers, and as an ingredient in dips and sauces. The versatility of the artichoke is limitless.

The word artichoke is shared by three unrelated plants; the globe artichoke (described here) as well as the Jerusalem artichoke and the Crosnes (Chinese or Japanese artichoke).

While many simply have no idea how to cook artichokes, others avoid eating them because of the strange appearance of these edible thistles. But underneath the hard prickles of these funny-looking flowers lies a heart full of nutritional value and the secret that makes the artichoke a sought-after culinary delicacy.

The artichoke makes no concessions to those who want a quick meal. So, in this age of ‘fast food’ and ‘quick fixes’, what keeps this commodity growing? Serious artichoke eaters will tell you that the reason for eating an artichoke is its unique, ‘nutty’ flavour. Most people cook the whole artichoke, and slip each leaf petal, one by one, through their teeth until they reach the delectable heart. Children love them because they get to eat artichokes with their fingers! The artichoke is fun to eat, and it's good for you. In addition to eating them ‘straight up’, many consumers have discovered that artichokes also make excellent additions to stir-fry and pasta dishes.

The globe or French artichoke, originating from the Mediterranean, has been around forever and the ancient Egyptians and Romans prized them for their medicinal properties. Today, in some parts of the world, artichokes are so highly praised people devote entire festivals to it.

They have been grown in England since at least the 1500's and were considered an aristocratic vegetable.

Purchase
Artichokes are best in summer; choose one that is firm and heavy with stiff tightly packed leaves. Many artichokes have brown patches on the leaves, these are usually just frost marks and are perfectly good to eat. Using good judgement is best when selecting any produce.
If you can't find them fresh, look for canned, frozen or marinated artichoke hearts that are readily available in stores. You may also be offered a choice between mature artichokes or baby artichokes (picked while the leaves and choke are still soft and completely edible).
Avoid
Because the artichoke is a flower bud, open leaves indicate that it's overripe, and will therefore be hard and have too large a choke. Check the cut end for freshness — avoid a black cut, which indicates the artichoke has been stored too long. Avoid artichokes that are wilting, drying out, or mouldy.
Health Information/Nutrition
Artichokes, especially those with a slightly bitter taste, are reputed to prevent the build-up of fats in artery walls, thus protecting against heart disease and high cholesterol. Irritable bowl syndrome is another complaint that can apparently be eased by eating globe artichokes, as are bloating, flatulence, abdominal cramps and constipation. Globe artichokes are also a great addition to a diabetic diet and for those trying to lose weight. They're low in kilojoules and carbohydrates and high in fibre; rich in vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin A, C, iron and potassium, and are a good source of protein.
Storage
Artichokes can be stored for up to 5 days. Keep them in a plastic bag, lightly spray them with water and place in the crisper of the refrigerator. The quality will always be better if used within the first 2 days after being purchased. If you grow your own then cut them right before you cook them.

Preparation and Cooking

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  1. Wash each artichoke under cold running water or by dunking them several times in a container of water in order to get any dirt out from under the leaves. The leaves of an artichoke are close together and can be difficullt to clean.

  2. Cut the stem of the artichoke off at the base so that it will sit upright easily. This helps when cooking and also for presentation.

  3. Using a kitchen shears or sturdy scissors, snip the top points off the leaves.

  4. Hold the artichoke tightly and cut the top 1/3 to ¼ of the artichoke off using a sturdy kitchen knife.

  5. Place artichokes that have already been cut in a bath of water and 60 ml (¼ cup) lemon juice or water and 60 ml (¼ cup) white vinegar. This helps to eliminate the browning process that rapidly takes place in artichokes. Keep them in the water until all are ready to be cooked. Artichokes are very bouyant and have a tendency to turn upright in the water. Keep the cut tops turned in the water by holding them down with a heavy object. A plate placed on top works well.

  6. Select a pan large enough to hold the artichokes upright. Lemons and garlic are commonly added to the cooking process. The process of boiling and steaming artichokes are the same except when steaming them, place the artichokes in a steaming basket before placing in a pot of water.

  7. Artichokes are done when a fork easily slides into the centre. The leaves will have fallen slightly and be darker in colour.

  8. Turn artichokes upside down on a paper towel after boiling to eliminate any water from inside the leaves.

  9. Gently pull the leaves back to to expose the choke. The choke is the very centre of the artichoke and is not edible. This choke is what would be the flowering portion of the plant had it been allowed to mature. Use a spoon, scoop or grapefruit spoon to gently scoop out the choke. Keep scooping until all the fuzzy sections are eliminated.

  10. The preparation methods for roasting baby artichokes are similar to preparing whole artichokes in that you need to cut the stem and top 1/3 off of each one. It is important to remember that the choke does not need to be removed when eating baby artichokes. All is edible since the choke hasn't fully developed.

  11. After cutting the stem and top, start at the bottom of the baby artichoke and begin snapping off the leaves. Continue doing so until the centre pale yellow leaves are reached. At this point the center can be cut in halves or quarters and placed in acidulated water until ready to cook.

  12. To eat the artichoke, simply pull off the leaves, dip in your favourite sauce and enjoy.


Artichoke Washing

CleaningWash each artichoke under cold running water or by dunking them several times in a container of water in order to get any dirt out from under the leaves. The leaves of an artichoke are close together and can be difficullt to clean.

Artichoke Stem

Preparation - Step 1Cut the stem of the artichoke off at the base so that it will sit upright easily. This helps when cooking and also for presentation.

Artichoke Trimming

Step 2Using a kitchen shears or sturdy scissors, snip the top points off the leaves.

Artichoke Cut Top

Step 3Hold the artichoke tightly and cut the top 1/3 to ¼ of the artichoke off using a sturdy kitchen knife.

Acidulated Water

Step 4Place artichokes that have already been cut in a bath of water and 60 ml (¼ cup) lemon juice or water and 60 ml (¼ cup) white vinegar. This helps to eliminate the browning process that rapidly takes place in artichokes. Keep them in the water until all are ready to be cooked.

Artichoke Pot

Boiling and Steaming - Step 1Select a pan large enough to hold the artichokes upright. Lemons and garlic are commonly added to the cooking process. The process of boiling and steaming artichokes are the same except when steaming them, place the artichokes in a steaming basket before placing in a pot of water.

Artichoke Cooked

Step 2Artichokes are done when a fork easily slides into the centre. The leaves will have fallen slightly and be darker in colour.

Artichoke Turn

Step 3Turn artichokes upside down on a paper towel after boiling to eliminate any water from inside the leaves.

Artichoke Choke

Step 4Gently pull the leaves back to to expose the choke. The choke is the very centre of the artichoke and is not edible. This choke is what would be the flowering portion of the plant had it been allowed to mature. Use a spoon, scoop or grapefruit spoon to gently scoop out the choke. Keep scooping until all the fuzzy sections are eliminated.

Artichokes Baby Stem

Roasting Baby Artichokes - Step 1The preparation methods for roasting baby artichokes are similar to preparing whole artichokes in that you need to cut the stem and top 1/3 off of each one. It is important to remember that the choke does not need to be removed when eating baby artichokes. All is edible since the choke hasn't fully developed.

Artichoke Baby Pull Leaves

Step 2After cutting the stem and top, start at the bottom of the baby artichoke and begin snapping off the leaves. Continue doing so until the centre pale yellow leaves are reached. At this point the center can be cut in halves or quarters and placed in acidulated water until ready to cook.

Artichoke Leaf

Let's EatTo eat the artichoke, simply pull off the leaves, dip in your favourite sauce and enjoy.


Serving Suggestions
  • Steam whole for approximately 25 minutes and serve hot with a dipping sauce of lemon butter or hollandaise or serve cold with a flavoured mayonnaise or vinaigrette.

  • Deep-fry whole cleaned baby artichokes until they are golden brown.

  • Stuff steamed artichokes with rice, ground meat, sausage, chicken, vegetables, cheese, or a combination and bake until bubbling hot.

Flavour Affinities
  • garlic

  • herbs

  • lemons

  • nuts

  • olive oil

  • white wine

Category: Vegetables

Sub-Category: Stems

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Word Count: 2603

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