Ever stared at an artichoke in the market and wondered what to do with it? I have. Sure they’re pretty but how do you get to the good stuff beneath the prickly thistles?
Juls planted four artichoke plants in our garden this year. Given that one plant can produce up to twenty artichokes in a season, I’m learning fast. Yes a bit of know-how and time is required to prepare them but the effort is not as great as you might think and is more than worth it.
The key, as with all produce, is quality and freshness. The artichokes we’ve harvested from home are indescribably better than anything store bought. Obviously not everyone has that luxury so here’s what you’re looking for. Artichokes should feel heavier than they appear and squeak when gently squeezed. Their leaves should be firm and tightly compact. If the leaves look dry, blemished, or have started to splay, keep shopping. They’ll keep for no more than 3-4 days in the fridge so use them fast.
The healthy bits… Artichokes have two cool effects on the body. They protect the liver by promoting the flow of bile and fats, thus reducing congestion. They also reduce the risk of atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) by lowering cholesterol and improving the function of the endothelial cells that line our arteries.*
The method below is the most basic way of preparing and serving an artichoke. I plan on writing a follow up for those recipes that require just the hearts.
How to Prep an Artichoke
1. Prepare a large bowl of water and squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into it. You will place your prepped artichokes into this to prevent oxidation (browning). Alternatively, if you’re prepping a lot of chokes, rub lemon across the cut leaves after step 5.
2. Cut the stem at the base of the choke.
3. Peel away/pull off the first 1-2 tougher layers of leaves at the base of the choke, until you are left with only uniform pale green leaves.
4. With kitchen scissors trim the top of each leaf just enough to remove the thistle.
5. With a sharp knife or scissors, remove the top quarter of the artichoke. This allows the artichoke to be opened up and cook more evenly when steamed.
6. Pop the artichoke in the lemon water, preserving it until you’re ready to cook.
Words are great, but in this instance a video helps a lot. Here’s Martha.
1 tbsp vegetable stock
1. Bring a large pot of 1 Litre of water to the boil. Add vegetable stock.
2. Place the artichokes into the steamer upside down. Cover and steam for 25-40mins. Time varies depending on size and how open the leaves are. The chokes are ready when a leaf can easily be pulled away and a knife easily pierces the base.
3.To enjoy the artichoke leaves, peel away one leaf at a time and scrape off the flesh at the bottom with your teeth. Continue until you reach the ‘choke’ which looks like a dome of fibrous horse hair. Remove the choke, don’t eat it. It’s called a choke for a reason. You’ll be left with the delectable ‘heart’ to enjoy.
1. A dash of white wine or fresh herbs (such as thyme or a bay leaf) added to the vegetable stock will give the artichoke more flavour
2. Serve a sauce along side each artichoke into which each leaf can be dipped. Simple melted butter works well, as does a garlic aioli, or an olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette. Perhaps even baba ganoush or roasted red capsicum dip.
What other veggies intimidate you?