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Decoding Spring Produce: Artichokes - All Choked Up

Decoding Spring Produce: Artichokes - All Choked Up

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In previous installments of these looks at spring produce, we checked out stinging nettles and asparagus, both of which are great and currently in season. If you've tried any of those recipes, I'm sure you've found both of those vegetables pretty easy to work with.

This time we'll be looking at a vegetable that involves a little more preparation: artichokes. These green guys have a tendency to stick you with their stingers, but with proper care, you can reap the tastiest bits for dinner.

Artichokes

Artichokes are at their best between March and May. They are the flowers of thistle bushes originating from the Mediterranean. Although they may look a little discouraging, artichokes are fantastic sources of vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. You'll find two different shapes: the round globe artichokes and the longer, dew-drop-like French artichoke. Gloves are a good idea when handling artichokes, not only because of the spiky tips but also because the resin that the raw vegetable secretes when cut.

To prep an artichoke you will need a pair of scissors, a serrated knife, and acidulated water (water with lemon juice or any other mild-tasting acid). The acid in the water prevents browning where the vegetable had been cut. If you're going to be roasting the artichokes, you will also want a vegetable peeler and a spoon (a grapefruit spoons work best).

Boiled Artichokes

  • 1 globe artichoke, large
  • Enough acidulated water to cover the artichoke

1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

2. While waiting for the water to boil, remove the stem and the top inch of the artichoke with a serrated knife.

3. Use the scissors to trim off the spiky tips of the outer petals.

4. Place the artichoke in acidulated water until pot is at a boil.

5. Boil the artichoke for about 25 minutes or until the base where the stem was attached can be easily pierced by a paring knife.

6. Remove the artichoke and let it cool upside down for 5 minutes before eating.

After boiling your artichokes you can pick off the leaves and eat the bottom part of each petal until you get close to the center where the petals are very tender. In the tender center, you can eat the whole petal. The edible heart is between where the stem was attached and the fuzzy "choke" of the flower. The choke is just a collection of immature flower petals in the center of the flower. This part is mostly fibrous and not worth eating.

Roasted Artichokes

  • 2 lbs French artichokes, baby
  • Olive oil
  • Enough acidulated water to cover the artichoke

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Remove the top inch of the artichokes. Remove all but an inch and a half of the stems of the artichokes. Once each artichoke is cut, place it into the acidulated water.

3. Peel the darker outer leaves off of each artichoke until you reach the lighter, tender leaves.

4. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the outer green skin off of the stems and round out the hearts of each artichoke. Place each artichoke back into the acidulated water.

5. Cut each artichoke into quarters lengthwise. Carefully cut out the fuzzy chokes and place the artichokes back in acidulated water.

6. Drain the artichokes and let dry slightly.

7. Place a large sauté pan on high heat.

8. Put one tablespoon of olive oil in the pan. Add artichoke hearts to the pan a large handful at a time.

9. Let the artichokes roast in the pan over high heat until nicely colored on all sides (about 2 minutes on each side). Place the golden brown artichokes into a baking dish.

10. Place the baking dish in the oven for 10 minutes or until tender all the way through.

You can put the roasted artichokes into salads, pastas, or sauté with onion and tomato as a side dish.

Artichoke Pasta Salad

Salad or Appetizer
Serves four

  • 8 oz pasta, bow-tie or corkscrew
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of basil, chopped
  • 1 bunch of oregano, chopped
  • 1/2 cup artichoke hearts; marinated in oil, drained
  • 1 Tbl olive oil

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and add pasta. Stir the pasta until the water returns to a boil to prevent sticking.

2. Cook the pasta until al dente.

3. Drain the pasta.

4. With the pasta still hot, add olive oil, chopped basil, and chopped oregano. Toss together.

5. Add the artichokes and sun-dried tomato. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

Next time we'll be looking at some of the best fruit of the spring. First up we'll be looking at a fruit that has created a culture and industry from its by-products.

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