Ahh, the artichoke. The name alone is enough to send small children running. The artichoke is actually not a vegetable, but a thistle. It consists of the stem, leaves, heart (VERY tasty), and the center, called the “choke” — which looks hairy and is, understandably, inedible.
But not only is the artichoke delicious, it’s also nutritious (cue groans). In fact, according to a study from the USDA, artichokes rank seventh in total antioxidant capacity per serving out of more than 1,000 common foods. Artichokes are also a good source of potassium (banana, watch your back!), magnesium, vitamin C, and fiber.
Most of you are probably used to seeing artichokes in their most common form: the jar. Don’t get me wrong, I love those marinated baby artichokes as much as the next girl, but REAL, fresh artichoke is so much better!
For almost any recipe using fresh artichoke, you’re going to have to cook it first. I think the easiest thing to do is steam them:
Wash artichokes and cut off stems at base.
Remove small leaves from the bottom.
Stand artichokes upright in a deep pan so they fit snugly.
Add 2-3 inches of water and a teaspoon of salt.
Bring to a boil and let steam for 35-45 minutes, or until the base can be pierced easily with a fork.
When done, turn the artichokes upside down to drain.
To eat the artichoke, peel off a few leaves at a time and use your teeth to scrape off the fleshy meat on the underside of the leaves. Be careful not to eat the hairy pieces in the center! If you’re using fresh baby artichokes, there won’t be any fuzz or fibrous leaves, so as long as you trim it, the whole thing is edible. Don’t you dare throw away the heart. It takes some work to remove the hairy choke, but it’s SO worth it.
Most artichoke recipes involve creating some kind of elaborate dip, but honestly, I think butter works really well. If you’re curious about different dips, check out artichokes.org (apparently artichokes have their own .org!). Some of the best looking dips involve combining mayo with different flavors (pesto, herb, or curry) or making a creamy Thai dip with peanut butter.
Other artichoke preparations include:
They might look intimidating, but artichokes actually make a great, easy side dish to any meal. I might just have some tonight!