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Artichokes 101

Updated on July 15, 2013
The Artichoke offers dynamic flavor, textures, and nutrition for a delightful food experience.
The Artichoke offers dynamic flavor, textures, and nutrition for a delightful food experience. | Source


What are Artichokes?

Found all year round these days—although they are at their best in spring and autumn—the artichoke is really a simple thistle, and some would even say it is just an old weed. Italy is where the largest production of the plants are derived. However; as a Californian I am proud to say, nearly 100% of the Artichokes found in the USA are grown right here in my home state, and 80% of those varieties are found around Castroville in Monterey County, south of San Francisco.

Artichoke Tips

5 stars from 1 rating of Amazing Artichoke Tips

Choose the Best Artichoke

What Makes a Great Artichoke

Again, these days you can find artichokes just about every day of the year, but finding the best choke when you shop has a few stipulations attached. You will generally find Summer artichokes to have longer stickers and the leaves are going to be more open then those found in Spring—which offer more weight for the size and have much tighter leaves. The winter artichoke, or "winter kissed choke" will have a bronze color from the frost, which brings a wonderfully nutty, rich flavor, not found in artichokes in the rest of the seasons. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you shop for the best artichoke throughout the year:

An Artichoke Question

Have you thought about growing your own fresh artichokes at home?

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How to Buy the Best Artichoke

What to Look For In A Good Artichoke

  • Always pick artichokes that are heavy for their size
  • Look for tightly closed leaves
  • Leaves should be olive-green or lightly kissed with a bronze color
  • Leaves should NEVER feel papery

When you're done learning how to cook Artichokes, learn a few cool things about CORN!

Where do Artichokes Grow in the USA?

A markerCastroville, Monterey County, California -
Castroville, CA, USA
get directions

California produces nearly 100% of the USA Artichoke crop. Over 80% comes from Castroville, in Monterey County, which is south of San Francisco.

The Liver and Artichoke Connection

Healing Power Of Artichokes

Western and Holistic Practitioners Agree about the Artichoke's Healing Power

An extract from the leaves of the Globe Artichoke was discovered as far back as the fourth century B.C., to be effective in the treatment of various diseases of the liver and blood. Now, over two thousand years later, both Holistic and white-coat practitioners are finding this extract to be quite useful. It seems this extract works wonders in the treatment of gallbladder and liver ailments, as well as with cases of anemia, diabetes, kidney disease, and high cholesterol. Besides, fresh artichokes are low in calories and sodium, are fat-free, cholesterol-free, and are also a good source of fiber and vitamins A, B, and the mighty C.

Artichoke Nutritional Facts Chart (steamed or boiled)

(click column header to sort results)
Calories from fat
Total fat 
Saturated fat
Polyunsaturated fat
Monounsaturated fat
Total carbohydrates
Dietary fiber
Vitamin A
Vitamin B6
Vitamin C

Prepping and Steaming an Artichoke

Trimming and snipping the artichoke before steaming is manditory for the complete enjoyment of the diner. The stickers are sharp and can be painful.
Trimming and snipping the artichoke before steaming is manditory for the complete enjoyment of the diner. The stickers are sharp and can be painful. | Source

How to Cook a Whole Artichoke


Unlike most people, I do NOT chop off and throw out the majority of the artichoke. I use as much of it as possible, and so should you! Here you will find;

Directions for prepping and steaming your artichokes:

  1. Cut off the stem, but don't throw it out, cook it along with the rest of the choke. Pull off the superficial leaves around the base of the globe.
  2. Trim off ½" to 1" of the top, the snip the tips of the leaves where the sharp stickers are (kitchen scissors work best for this).
  3. Cut artichoke in half (or leave whole, the only thing that will change is the cooking time) and steam until tender. Steam for about 35 minutes for an artichoke cut in half, and 45 to 50 minutes for a whole intact globe. You will know they are done when a leaf will easily pull from the choke globe.
  4. Remove the artichoke from the pot and turn upside down and drain thoroughly. Some cooks drizzle olive oil in the steaming water for an added rich taste, but just remember this will add cholesterol and fat. I use garlic cloves and sometime slices of onion for added flavor that won't add extra calories, cholesterol, or fat.

Getting the Choke out!

Removing the choke from an artichoke is easy once you get the hang of it!
Removing the choke from an artichoke is easy once you get the hang of it! | Source

Getting the Choke Out

How to Remove the Artichoke Choke

What is that fuzzy stuff inside my artichoke?

Inside the very center of the artichoke you will find a fine fuzzy-like material, this is known as the "choke." It is tough and unpleasant in the mouth, so removing this to get to the lovely sweet and tender heart of the artichoke is well worth the hassle! It is a simple task once you get familiar with the method:

  • Pull out the center tuft of leaves with your fingers and toss them out.
  • Spread remaining leaves out a little bit, and with a small spoon, gently scrape out the thistly part, leaving the heart to enjoy in a variety of ways.

How to Eat the Meat of an Artichoke Leaf

Above I mention that I do not waste any of the artichoke, this includes the large exterior leaves. Using the aioli dip recipe below, even those outer and sometimes tougher leaves are a yummy treat. After dipping the leaf into the aioli dip (melted butter, or just plain mayo—both work well as no-make dips) simply place the leaf between your teeth, run your teeth across the meaty side of the leaf while pulling it out of your mouth. The artichoke meat that gets scraped off is very tasty and should never go to waste!

Quick and Simple Aioli Dip for Artichokes

What is Aioli: Aioli is simply a mayonnaise based dip.

The artichoke is a wonderfully healthy product all on its own, and adding anything fatty would seem to counteract this delightful attribute. But, if you have a hankering for a creamy dip of decadence to dip your artichoke into; this is my personal favorite recipe for just such a splurge.

Lemon Garlic Aioli Recipe

An easy  to prepare aioli dip is always welcome along side your steamed Artichokes!
An easy to prepare aioli dip is always welcome along side your steamed Artichokes! | Source

Aioli Dip Ingredients

Very Lemon and Garlic Aioli

  • 1 cup Mayonnaise (the real stuff works best)
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely minced (I use the Zest rasp to mince the garlic cloves)
  • ¼ cup fresh white bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seed
  • Juice of one fresh lemon (or 3 TBL store bought lemon juice)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp poultry seasoning (ground sage works also)
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce (2 or 3 drops is enough)
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Puting the Lemon and Garlic Aioli Dip Recipe Together

Place all ingredients into a blender and process until smooth and creamy - OR - Place all ingredients into a medium bowl and using a whisk, whip until smooth and creamy. Chill for 30 minutes and serve with steamed artichoke leaves and hearts.

Comments for "Artichokes 101"

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  • K9keystrokes profile image

    India Arnold 6 years ago from Northern, California

    Sallys Trove~ Wow. I would be so thrilled to have a backyard artichoke plant! PiaC (of HubPages fame) allows hers to go to flower, which is another bonus to this tasty thistle. Thanks for the comments I truly appreciate them.



    Sandyspider~ I hope you do give artichokes another try. With the aioli recipe provided here, you may find yourself craving them regularly!



    Mountainmike1~I agree, sometimes they do not look all that appetizing in the lesser seasons. I generally make a "cream of" or a "warm curry" artichoke soup with these not-so-goo-looking chokes. Glad you enjoyed the hub!



    Flora~I don't think I have ever met anyone who has not tried artichokes. They can look a bit intimidating for the first timer I suppose. You only live once my friend,...and I would hate to think you missed something as wonderful as the delicious artichoke!



  • Reprieve26 profile image

    Reprieve26 6 years ago from Oregon Coast

    I'm lucky. When I bought my house 5 years ago there was a huge established artichoke plant growing in the yard. I LOVE that thing! I usually get about a dozen (sometimes more) artichokes per year. I grow so many that I'm actually in the habit of giving some away to friends and family members!

    Thanks for sharing this hub. I've never tried cutting the artichokes in half when I cook them and I've never made a aioli dip. I'll have to try both!

    Voted up and useful! :)

  • K9keystrokes profile image

    India Arnold 6 years ago from Northern, California

    Chatkath~ So pleased you have a new and improved method for artichoke preparation after reading here! I so appreciate your warm and flattering remarks, and humbly and blushing well as I read them. You always brighten my day. I hope you enjoy your artichokes far more then before! They are an amazing food.

    Special HubHugs for you my friend~


  • Chatkath profile image

    Kathy 6 years ago from California

    This is so perfect K9, I have always just thrown em whole in a pot of bowling water! Now I know the right way (and why mine never tasted very "special")! This hub is so amazing, as always I love your unique images and graphics, they always enhance what you are talking about because you design that way! Not to mention your extensive research and the range of information provided! You should do a hub on "how to create a hub like K9keystrokes".

    Rated Up and all the way across!

  • Sandyspider profile image

    Sandy Mertens 6 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

    I am not an artichoke person. But I think I will try them again. The dip sounds good.

  • profile image

    mountainmike1 6 years ago

    Thank you - been eating them since I was young. Too bad they have looked so bad in the stores lately - maybe they are a little out of season?

  • FloraBreenRobison profile image

    FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

    I can't remember ever eating artichokes.

  • K9keystrokes profile image

    India Arnold 6 years ago from Northern, California

    PiaC~ I am convinced now! A batch of artichoke plants will be added to our garden without a doubt. Thank you so much!



  • PiaC profile image

    PiaC 6 years ago from Oakland, CA

    :) It seems to be very easy to get them to grow! we have to routinely prune ours as it gets over large. And the flowers! So gorgeous!

  • K9keystrokes profile image

    India Arnold 6 years ago from Northern, California

    PiaC~ I am so jealous! I would love to have artichokes growing at my home. I have a good size garden, but I haven't planted chokes...hmmm, I think you have motivated me to grow some added veggies next season! I love the colors and bright erupting flowers of artichokes, and the yummy nature of the thistle makes it even better. Thank you for hopping over to the neighborhood today, always a joy to see you.



  • PiaC profile image

    PiaC 6 years ago from Oakland, CA

    K9Keystrokes -- another fabulous and very useful article! Would you believe that I have a huge artichoke plat growing in my garden, yet I never cook them, as I don't know how? Instead, I let them burst into flower and decorate my room. No longer! I'll cook those prickly veggies next summer, that's for sure!

  • K9keystrokes profile image

    India Arnold 6 years ago from Northern, California

    Wesman Todd Shaw~ What a treat to have seen the artichoke fields in season! The blooms are colorful and quite a wonderful sight. I am with you, nothing says I love artichokes like an Italian creamed pasta dish!

    I hope California was good to you for those three months! ;)

    I appreciate you stopping by for a read today.



  • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

    Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

    I really do like artichokes. A couple years ago I got to live for about three months in Northern California in the Monterrey Bay area - in Seaside.

    I got to travel around a bit from there and see the artichoke fields, I'd never known that they pretty much all came from there.

    I especially like artichokes in Italian Pasta dishes with white cream sauce :-D

  • K9keystrokes profile image

    India Arnold 6 years ago from Northern, California

    Just Ask Susan~ I am so glad you found your confidence within this article! You are not alone when it comes to the yummy artichoke Susan, many people avoid its delights because it seems too difficult to prepare. In reality, it's a VERY simple vegetable to cook when you have the inside scoop.

    Thank you so much for stopping by today, and enjoy your chokes this weekend!



  • Just Ask Susan profile image

    Susan Zutautas 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    I have not eaten artichokes in so long as I never knew how to cook them properly and never bothered to look into how to cook them. Thanks to you I can now enjoy them again. They are going on my grocery list for this weekend. Thanks so much.


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