Artichokes are the bud (or flower) of a thistle which is a variety of flowering plants known for their characteristic prickly leaves and I absolutely love them.
These babies are most often cooked whole, but that does not mean that they are 100% edible. The outside leaves are dark in color and tend to be highly fibrous and stringy which makes them less than desirable to eat.
The base of each of the inner leaves, however, has a pocket of soft fleshy goodness. As you work your way into the artichoke, you will find more tender leaves. These will have more meat to eat and less stringy bits.
Globe artichokes are the variety you will most likely find at your local grocery store. Look for their green color.
Inside every one, you will see a section that looks like hair or tiny fibers concentrated together. This is called, the “choke.” Do not eat this, it is not edible. The heart which you often see canned or in the antipasti section of the store is and is the payload.
Artichokes are delicious, stunning to look at, and in my opinion, not used often enough. And while they do require a bit more prep work than most dishes, they are easy to cook. If you see them at the grocery, be sure to grab some. You won’t be disappointed.
Here are some great recipes featuring artichokes:
- BEST Spinach Artichoke Dip
- Crab Dip Stuffed Artichoke Hearts
- Parmesan Artichoke Hearts
- Spinach and Artichoke Pinwheels
- Lemon Artichoke Pesto
What are the benefits of eating artichokes?
These babies are high in fiber which keeps the gut healthy. They are also known for their high density of antioxidants, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and folate which a type of B Vitamin. They are thought to help keep blood pressure low and to improve liver function.
What do artichokes taste like?
Think of them as the mildly flavored cousin of sauteed asparagus. Throw in some nutty sweet undertones and the texture of boiled potato and you have a good idea of what they taste like.
How do you choose artichokes at the store?
Be sure to look for those with bright-green leaves and few brown spots. The fresh ones will have tight leaves and while those with splayed leaves are probably past their prime. In terms of size, go with how many people you are feeding and keep in mind the larger ones do take longer to cook.
How do you cook artichokes?
These are most often cooked by steaming or boiling. Steaming will keep the meat moist and tender while holding onto all those nutrients. The leaves and hearts are then served for guests to pick apart often alongside a dip of some sort like garlic mayo or lemon aioli.
Artichoke hearts are marinated and used in antipasti and sometimes served on salads. They are also often stuffed and baked or broken down and used in dips, savory cakes. Sometimes they are even coated in breadcrumbs and fried to absolute perfection.