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.
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.