Anatomy of an Artichoke
Take one look at an artichoke and you might wonder, how on earth do I eat THAT? The myths surrounding this prickly plant are ancient: cynara cardunculus, the scientific name for the artichoke is believed to be derived from the Greek myth that the plant was once a beautiful woman by the name of Cynara, who was transformed by Zeus into a flower after she grew tired of him. So how does one eat this “edible blossom?” The true joy that is eating an artichoke means mining what lies within. Carefully dissecting its layers and coupling it with the right flavors and sauces. (And yes, just as in the myth, if you let an artichoke flower it will reward you with a beautiful bluish-purple blossom)!
While the history and the plant are native to the Mediterranean, these days a majority of the artichokes sold in the United States are produced in California, with peak harvesting season in the spring and fall. Your abundant harvest boxes have been known to offer a couple varieties of artichokes (globe, baby) and also a relative of the artichoke, cardoons, which are prized for their edible stems resembling prickly celery stalks.
Knowing just how to break down your artichoke is the key to enjoying these vitamin, minerals, and antioxidant packed veggies.
Dissecting Your Artichoke
Your full sized artichokes are going to be dissected into the parts you can (and want to) eat, and the parts you will likely want to discard. From the inside out, you have your thorns on top, outer petals or leaves, inner petals or leaves, your choke (the feather bits), the heart (the part you will LOVE to eat) and the stem.
Before you do any sort of cooking, you will want to trim off the top 1-inch or so of the artichoke to remove any remaining thorns, and using a pair of kitchen scissors you can also remove any thorns from the outer petals but this is not a necessary step.
You can also trim the stem if you like (good for recipes that call for stuffing the artichoke), but the stem is connected to the heart so it is edible. No need to remove it completely unless you want to. Remove any small petals at the base of the artichoke, and if you are adding seasoning to the artichoke for a baked dish, you can spread open the petals to allow seasonings to sprinkle down inside of the blossom.
Lemon juice is also a great tool to keep the artichoke from turning brown or oxidizing during the cooking process. Dunking the artichokes in a lemon water bath before cooking is a simple trick.
If boiling or steaming artichokes, you can leave them whole at this point. If you plan to roast them (which some cooks argue is the best way to bring out the true nutty flavors of the artichoke) you can try slicing them in half lengthwise and placing them face down (petals facing up) in a baking dish.
Eating Your Artichoke
Once cooked the key things you will want to avoid are eating any tough outer leaves and the feathery choke in the center. The meat found at the end of the petals is best dipped in your favorite sauce (see our browned butter recipe below) and scraped clean with your teeth. Once the outer and inner petals have been consumed, scrape out the choke with a spoon or fork, and enjoy the heart, called so probably because it’s THE best part of the artichoke. Break or cut the heart into pieces and dip it in your favorite sauce. Now say…AHHHHH.
Ready to get cooking? Check out these simple artichoke recipes from the AHO Kitchen.
Veggie Pizza with Artichoke Hearts
Recipe and Photo by Rachel Oberg for Abundant Harvest Organics
- 3 large artichoke hearts (choke removed), halved (save leaves to steam and eat)
- 1 pizza crust
- 1 C tomato sauce
- ½ to 1 t fresh rosemary, chopped
- to taste salt
- to taste pepper
- ¼ to ½ t red pepper flakes
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1 small carrot, grated
- ¾ C gruyère cheese, grated
- ¼ C parmesan cheese, grated
- Pre-heat oven according to your favorite pizza crust recipe.
- Place artichoke hearts in a steamer basket in a pot with about 1″ boiling water in the bottom. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, or until artichokes are tender. Roughly chop and set aside.
- To make sauce: Combine tomato sauce with rosemary, seasonings, lemon zest and juice. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
- Roll out pizza dough.
- Top crust with sauce, cheese, veggies, and a little more cheese.
- Bake according to crust recipe until crust is crispy and slightly browned and cheese is melted.
Browned Butter Dipping Sauce
Recipe by AHO Kitchen Team
- 1/2 cup butter (one stick)
- pinch of salt
- pinch of garlic salt
- Place skillet on stove top on medium heat.
- Add butter.
- Cook (stirring the entire time) until the butter starts to boil slightly and turn a nice caramel color.
- Remove from heat and stir in salt and garlic salt to taste. Makes approx. 1/2 cup dipping sauce.
Baby Artichoke Salad
Recipe by Carol Peterson
- 6-10 baby artichokes, cleaned
- 1-2 lemons
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2/3 cup sliced Parmesan
- ½ cup julienne basil leaves
- Salt and pepper
- Peel baby artichokes and place in cold water.
- Squeeze 1 lemon into the water to prevent the artichokes from browning.
- Cook the artichokes in boiling salted water until tender, about 8-10 minutes. Drain and cool.
- Cut the artichokes into quarters and place in a large bowl.
- Add juice of remaining lemon, olive oil, Parmesan, basil and toss thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper.