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.
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?
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?
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)
CONTENT PER 10 oz. ARTICHOKE
Calories from fat
Prepping and Steaming an Artichoke
How to Cook a Whole Artichoke
PREPPING, TRIMMING AND STEAMING ARTICHOKES
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:
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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!
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
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.