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Everything You Need to Know About Artichokes

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 and salads. They can be enjoyed as a side dish or appetizer.

The modern day – otherwise known as 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 19thcentury 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 simply enjoy them 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 fortunately they are quite easy to cook and equally as fun to eat. The ultimate finger food, be sure to allot at least half to one whole artichoke per person.

How to Select and Store Artichokes

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 haven’t softened or dried out. 

To store fresh artichokes, the tight petals may be kept 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.

Photocred: In Search of Yummyness

How to Prepare Artichokes

Prepare artichokes by peeling away the loose petals at the base by the stem. Cut the stem away at the base of the artichoke, taking care 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, and 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 and fully submerge in cold water seasoned with 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 2 of your favourite fresh herb sprigs like thyme or basil [optional]. Boil artichokes for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on their size, just until tender [to test, 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 approximately 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 sliced artichokes in half vertically, remove the fuzzy choke and submerge in a bowl of water mixed with the juice of a lemon. This will keep artichokes from turning brown while you prep the remaining other ones. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add artichokes and  boil for about 15 minutes, or until slightly firm. Remove from the pot and drain. Drizzle with olive oil, more lemon juice, garlic powder, salt and pepper and finish on the grill, cooking for 5 to 10 minutes, while turning the artichokes frequently to prevent burning.

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.

Cooked artichokes can be frozen and will keep in the freezer for 6 to 8 months. There are a few methods for freezing artichokes; please see this website for more information on freezing.


Artichoke Tips

  • 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.

Artichokes Go Well With

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

Artichoke Serving Ideas

Artichoke Nutrition

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.

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