These buttery, nutty, delectable spring veggies are actually the premature blossoms of the artichoke plant’s thistle flower. If they were left in the field to flower they would end up being beautiful purple blooms.
The Imperial Star variety differs from those grown on the California coast. They’re thornless and start from seed rather than a dormant root stock or cutting. The first cutting is the largest, and the remainder of the season, the plant continues to exponentially produce baby sized two to three inch artichokes.
Most baby artichokes have yet to develop the hairy choke just above the heart, so they end up being a bit less work than larger artichokes because there is no need to remove it.
Rather than steaming or boiling and peeling away individual leaves to eat with mayonnaise or butter sauce as you would a large artichoke; baby sized artichokes are best sautéed with butter and oil.
Baby artichokes can be boiled, steamed, baked, sautéed, or grilled.
The outer leaves of the baby chokes come with a thin, waxy, bitter-tasting film produced by the plant, so, if you decide to leave them on, rub the artichoke under cool water with a vegetable brush before preparing. Leaving the outer leaves attached is a matter of preference.
Otherwise, peel or cut away the outer green leaves until you reach the more tender, yellow-green leaves. Cut off the stem at the base and trim off about a third off the top of the leaves. You can cut leave it whole, cut it in half, or quarter it for your recipes. If the hairy choke at the center of the plant has developed, you’ll see it when you cut the artichoke in half. It’s likely still tender enough to eat, but you’ll have to try and see for yourself.
Artichokes oxidize very quickly. You might notice that the bottom of the stem where the plant was harvested is dark in color, this happens almost instantly. To prevent your artichokes from darkening, be ready with a bowl of lemon water to hold the pieces until you’re ready to cook. You can also rub lemon juice over each cut place on the artichoke.
- Baby Artichoke Salad
- Collard Greens and Artichoke Dip (For this recipe, you can use the entire tender part of the artichoke, not just the heart)
- Sautéed Baby Artichokes
Slice the tip of the stem of the artichoke, spray it with water and seal in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Fresh from your box, your artichokes should last a week and a half in the fridge, but it’s always best to use them as soon as you can.