“ARTICHOKES 101”

I am not sure that everyone has access to fresh artichokes but if you do, you gotta be eating them RIGHT now since they are popping out like crazy this year here in our little northern California foothill garden! It’s a toss-up between fresh asparagus and artichokes for my favorite spring vegetable, oh wait, sugar snap peas are right up there, too; but today it’s artichoke preparation lesson.

IMG_4095Artichokes get a bad rap because they are covered with a bitter compound called cynarin (harmless but tastes bad) and some have prickles on the tips of the leaves. Both of these issues are easily dealt with and so worth the effort because fresh artichokes are yum, yum, yum 🙂

Here is how to prepare your artichokes so nothing distracts you from completely enjoying them:

IMG_4098To get rid of the bitter outside “resin” (and this includes store bought, too, since I imagine most of you don’t have a dozen artichoke plants in your backyard, right?) fill your sink with a bit of non-toxic dish soap (Dr. Bronner’s is great) and some water and dump those chokes right in there so they are covered with soapy warmish water. Take a clean vegetable scrub brush and gently scrub each one carefully. Drain the soapy water and rinse each choke well under cool water so there is no more soap on them. Bitterness gone 🙂

Now, get a pot big enough to hold all the artichokes on one level. No stacking on top of one another… Using a big serrated knife cut the stems off level with the bottom of the artichoke and then cut off about ¼ to 1/3 of the top end and voila, you have just cut off most of the prickly part. Put the artichokes in your pot, add water to about 2 inches, just enough to cover the bottom of the chokes. Slice up a lemon and put a thin piece right on top of each artichoke. This will keep them from turning brown and also add a nice lemon flavor to them while they cook. Sometimes I also peel a few cloves of garlic and poke those into the leaves of each artichoke. Highly recommend doing this!
IMG_4103Cover your pot with a tight fitting lid and cook on low heat for around 30 – 45 minutes, depending on the size of your artichokes. Check to see if they are done by carefully pulling off a leaf. It will come off easily and be tender if they are cooked.

IMG_4144 Remove your artichokes to a plate and let them cool while you make a sauce for dipping. I often just eat them with the garlic, lemon flavors they cooked in but if you are in a decadent mood, melt some butter, add a bit of lemon juice and serve each artichoke with a small bowl of the melted lemon butter for dipping. Soooo good! Once you have eaten most of the outer leaves, you will be at the BEST part: the HEART, of course. Separate the heart from the rest of the artichoke with a knife or spoon, it will come off easily because it is cooked. Carefully scoop out the “choke” and discard. I am guessing this is why they are are called artiCHOKES! That part is fibrous and inedible. Savor every bite of that heart because that is why it is worth all the work… it is truly one of the best things you will ever eat and it doesn’t need a bit of butter, it is so rich all by itself !!

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