The artichoke's tough exterior hides a tender and tasty heart. Photo by: Mercedes Palomino
Early spring is bursting with fresh, colorful produce, and you should be eating it now. A great one to incorporate? The wonderful artichoke. It's at its peak March through May, so now's the time to give all your artichoke recipes a try.
About the Artichoke
It might have a tough exterior, but the artichoke has a heart of gold. This round, multi-layered flower of the thistle family is not only delicious, it's also packed with healthful nutrients. Super high levels of potassium, calcium, fiber and antioxidants make this a must-eat. Add to that great flavor and incredibly versatility, and you've got yourself a veggie winner!
How to Pick An Artichoke
Go for the ones that appear tightly closed and feel heavy - this is a sign of freshness. Also look for an even, olive-hued leaf. If it shows some areas with black streaks, it means it's been frost-kissed (burned by frost) - these artichokes are actually quite soft and flavorful, if not pretty.
How To Prep An Artichoke
Start by trimming the top off with a bread knife, about 1 to 2 inches. Then, with kitchen shears, cut each exposed thorn by ½ inch. Remove the first couple of layers of leaves, as they will be a bit tough. Finally, cut the stem off - although it's perfectly edible, it might hinder your presentation. While you're prepping, place cut artichokes in a bowl with water and lemon juicy, to prevent browning of the leaves (some browning will inevitably occur).
How To Store An Artichoke
Store the artichokes that you won't be using right away, unwashed, in a perforated plastic bag in the fridge. They will keep for about 4-5 days. Once the leaves open up and appear looser, eat right away.
How To Cook An Artichoke
Since artichoke leaves are fibrous, you should always boil (or steam) them to soften them up. Anywhere from 20-45 minutes should do the trick, depending of the size of the produce. To get to the artichoke heart, cut it across the center, lengthwise, and spoon out the fuzzy, hairy part - that's the "choke", and it's inedible - under that lies the tender, delicious heart.
The possibilities of the artichoke are endless - fabulous in a smooth artichoke dip, and equally incredible when stuffed and baked. You can really have fun and experiment with it, so grab your basket and get yourself to market, stat!
Like artichokes? You'll love: Artichoke and Truffle Sauce by Urbani