Artichokes are popular in Southern US and Mediterranean cuisine. These delicate nutty flavoured blossoms are often found preserved and added to many dishes such as antipastos, pasta sauces, dips, salads and enjoyed as a side dish or appetizer.
The modern day [or Globe] artichokes are a variety of thistle that were cultivated to be edible in Italy around the middle of the 9th century. The Dutch introduced artichokes to England, where they grew in Henry VIII’s garden in 1530. They were brought to Louisiana by French immigrants in the 19th century and later to California by the Spanish.
The edible parts of the artichoke are the heart [base] and the meaty base of each petal. Once cooked, pluck off the petals and dip the soft, meaty base in your favourite sauce, melted butter, aioli (garlic mayo) or enjoy plain. Use your bottom teeth to gently scrape off the tender edible portion on the inside at the base of the petal. Once all the petals have been pulled away, a fuzzy choke is revealed. Scrape away this inedible part [thistle flower] to reveal a fleshy disc that has a soft texture and delicate flavour.
Many people are unsure of how to prepare artichokes, but they are quite easy to cook and fun to eat! The ultimate finger food! Be sure to allot at least half or a whole artichoke per person.
Choose artichokes that are compact, with crisp, tightly packed, bright green leaves. Avoid artichokes with discoloured or brown-tipped leaves or a dried brown stem. When selecting artichokes, pick the ones that are heavy for their size. This indicates a high water content. Give artichokes a gentle squeeze to see that they feel hard, making sure they are not soft or dried out.
How to Store Artichokes:
Fresh artichokes with tight petals may be stored in the fridge unwashed in a plastic bag for up to one week.
To freeze, trim off the top (about ½ an inch off the top) to expose some of the leaves, sprinkle a little bit of water over the cut ends, then seal in an airtight plastic bag before placing in the freezer.
Prepare artichokes by peeling away the loose petals at the base by the stem. Cut the stem away at the base of the artichoke avoiding not to cut too much as this is the heart. Trim the top points by cutting away an inch from the top to expose the inner part of the petals. Use kitchen shears to trim the thorns from the outer petals. Rinse under cold, running water to remove any trapped dirt or debris, rub a cut lemon half against the trimmed parts of the artichoke to prevent oxidization [browning].
To boil, place trimmed whole artichokes in a deep pot fully submerge in cold water seasoned with 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 table spoon of lemon juice and 2 of your favourite fresh herb sprigs like thyme or basil [optional]. Boil artichokes depending on size for 30 to 40 minutes until tender [insert a sharp knife with little pressure].
To steam, place trimmed whole artichokes on a steaming insert in a pot filled with water barely touching the bottom of the insert. Steam for about 45 minutes, or until you can easily pull away a petal from the base. Depending on size, cooking times will vary.
To roast, after trimming, slice artichokes vertically in half. Use a spoon to scrape out the fuzzy choke, rub the cut side with half a lemon, drizzle with olive oil and season with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Roast at 375ºF [190ºC] cut side down on a baking sheet until tender [approximately 30 to 40 minutes]. Serve cut side up with grated Parmesan cheese!
To grill, after trimming slice artichokes in half vertically, remove the fuzzy choke and rub with half a lemon. Submerge in Boil for about 15 minutes until slightly firm, then remove and drain. Drizzle with olive oil and finish on the grill.
To microwave, after trimming place whole artichokes in a microwavable baking dish with enough water to almost submerge and cover. Microwave on high for 20 to 30 minutes until tender. Cooking times may vary based on microwave and size of artichoke.
To enjoy, remove the pedals of the artichoke and arrange them around your favourite dip. Meanwhile, prepare the heart of the artichoke by twisting off the small tender inner leaves to reveal the soft, fuzzy but inedible choke. Use a spoon to scrape out the choke to reveal the soft fleshy base of the artichoke known as the “heart”. Serve with drawn butter as a side dish with your favourite protein.
If you’re more of a visual learner, check out this in-depth video for how to prepare artichokes.
How to Freeze:
Cooked artichokes will keep for 6 to 8 months in the freezer. There are a few methods for freezing artichokes, please see this website for more information on freezing.
- Use a stainless steel or ceramic knife to trim the artichoke. Avoid iron or aluminum cooking pots, which may cause them to turn brown [oxidize].
- A light squeeze of lemon juice will prevent darkening of trimmed artichokes prior to any cooking method.
- Add one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to cooking water when boiling whole artichokes or hearts.
Dairy: melted/drawn butter, cream cheese, goat cheese, sour cream, cream sauces, Parmesan cheese, and feta cheese
Produce: spinach, lemon, garlic, onion, avocado, eggplant, sundried tomatoes, shallots, potatoes and arugula
Herbs & Spices: olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, lemon pepper, and basil
Protein: chicken, fish, seafood, and eggs
Other: hollandaise sauce, mayonnaise, bread, pasta and pulse
Use melted butter, garlic butter, or hollandaise as a dipping sauce for hot artichokes.
Blend artichoke hearts with sautéed spinach, sour cream, cream cheese and parmesan cheese to make a dip for pita chips or your favourite cracker.
According to the Canadian Nutrient File, 100g of artichoke provides 32% of vitamin C, 19% of vitamin K, 18% of fibre (4.6 g), 13% of copper, 12% of vitamin B6, 9% of iron, 8% of phosphorus, 5% of zinc, and 4% of calcium.