The artichoke is a thistle plant in the genus Cynara. The most common type of this green vegetable is the globe or French artichoke. Most of them are grown in California, France, Italy, and Spain. They are a popular vegetable in both the U.S. and Europe. A fresh artichoke can look scary to someone who has never seen one before, and it takes some work to get to the meaty center of the thorny vegetable. Even though artichoke hearts can be bought in a can or frozen, they are not the same as fresh artichoke hearts, which can be steamed, baked, boiled, or grilled.
What is an Artichoke?
The artichoke is the bud of a thistle, and if you let it grow, it will turn into a beautiful purple flower. The inner leaves have soft, tasty meat on them that can be eaten. The best part of an artichoke is the hearts deep inside under the hairy “choke.”
The artichoke is the flower bud of a thistle before it blooms. It is considered a vegetable because it is eaten as one. The plant is in the same family as asters, and the bud is picked before the flower opens. Artichokes are not easy to cook; you must work to get to the parts you can eat. The tips of the bud’s outer leaves, called “bracts,” have thorns (thornless varieties have been cultivated). The base of the leaves can be eaten, and the soft leaves in the middle can also be eaten. On top of the heart, you’ll find the choke, the hairy part in the middle. The heart is the meatiest part of an artichoke, and you can also eat the middle of the stem. Unless it’s a baby artichoke, you don’t eat the choke.
Artichoke comes from the Mediterranean and is considered one of the world’s oldest foods, and it was even mentioned in Greek mythology. Today, it is grown mainly in California, and more than 80% of the U.S. crop comes from Castroville, known as the “Artichoke Center of the World.” France, Italy, and Spain grow crops that feed the rest of the world. Artichokes are not the least expensive vegetable you can buy.
Artichoke vs. Jerusalem Artichoke
Even though they both have the same name, artichoke and Jerusalem artichoke (also called sunchoke) are unrelated. Both plants are in the aster family, but that is where they are different. The artichoke is in the same genus as the cardoon called Cynara. The Jerusalem artichoke is a type of sunflower in the genus Helianthus. Also, the tuber is the part of a Jerusalem artichoke that can be eaten (or root). It can be eaten raw or cooked, and its texture is much like that of a potato. It tastes sweet and crunchy, like a chestnut.
How to Boil an Artichoke?
Follow the below method to boil artichoke simply:
- Fill a large pot with cold water.
- Add prepared artichokes, lemon halves, garlic, salt, and pepper, and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Then gently simmer until the artichokes are nice and soft, 35–45 minutes, depending on their size.
How to Cook with Artichoke?
Before you can eat artichoke, you have to cook it. You can bake, boil, braise, grill, microwave, or roast it. One of the easiest and most popular ways to cook a whole artichoke is to steam it. Artichoke hearts are also used in dips, pasta, and soup, among other things.
Knowing how to prepare an artichoke for cooking will be much more enjoyable to eat. You will need to cut off and throw away the stem at the bottom, the thorns on the tips of the leaves, and the thorny crown. When the tough outer leaves are taken off, the soft, creamy flesh at the bottom of the inner leaves and the meaty heart is easier to get to.
What does it Taste Like?
Artichokes are known for their nuttiness, and this is a bit lost in varieties without thorns, which is why many cooks would rather deal with the thorns than lose flavor. When artichokes are eaten raw, they stay much firmer and taste bitter, and cooking makes the texture smoother and gives it a taste similar to boiled potatoes. If you want to know if you’ll like artichokes, they taste a bit like asparagus and brussels sprouts and have a mild nutty taste.
Globe artichoke is the most common and well-known type; you can get them without thorns. People also like baby artichokes because the choke doesn’t have to be taken out. This isn’t a baby version; it’s a cultivar that grows smaller. There are other kinds of artichokes, but most of them can only be found outside of the United States. But a few farmers in California grow some interesting varieties worth looking into.
Where to Buy Artichoke?
Most people in the U.S. eat globe artichoke. Even though it’s available all year in most markets, the best time to buy it is from March to May. The second best time to believe it is in October and November. Fresh artichokes can seem expensive, which makes sense when you think about how hard it is to get to the little heart.
It is usually sold in the produce section, unwrapped, and by the piece. Sometimes you can get a discount if you buy a lot. Artichoke plants can be grown in a garden as either annuals or perennials, depending on the climate. To make flowers, they need good drainage, a lot of water, and a lot of suns.
When shopping for artichokes, look for dark green globes with close-packed leaves. For its size, it should feel heavy. Size doesn’t affect taste or quality, and it’s a matter of personal preference, but keep in mind that the more giant the artichoke, the longer it takes to cook. The small artichoke is just a smaller bud. One plant can make up to 30 different-sized chokes.
One way to tell if the leaves are fresh is to press them together. You’ll hear a squeaking sound if it’s new. The artichoke is old or overripe if it has spongy leaves or outer leaves that are very hard and spread out. If the tips turn brown, it could be because of age or frost damage. Artichokes that are old and dry shouldn’t be eaten, but those with a bit of frostbite on the tips are often thought to be the best.
Since you don’t know how long an artichoke has been sitting on the grocery store shelf, it’s best to use it the same day you buy it. If you can’t do that, you can keep fresh artichokes in the fridge for five to seven days. Cut off a small piece of the stem, sprinkle the end where you cut it with water, and wrap it in a plastic bag.
Before artichokes can be frozen, they need to be cooked. If you freeze it raw, it will turn brown and lose both taste and texture. To freeze a whole cooked artichoke for up to eight months, drain it well, wrap it tightly in foil, and put it in a plastic freezer bag or another airtight container. Artichokes that have already been cooked can also be placed in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to five days. It can be used again in eggs, tacos, or pasta recipes.
How to Choose the Best Artichokes?
When shopping for artichokes, look for the following signs:
- heavy for their size
- leaves are closed and not shriveled
Don’t buy light artichokes with shriveled leaves because they are probably old and dried. And there won’t be much meat for them to eat.
Also, you can buy artichokes from March to June and from September to October. That means now is the best time to enjoy them!
How to Remove the “Choke”?
- Take off all the leaves and put them on a platter. And you’ll find the artichoke’s heart.
- To get rid of the hairy “choke,” slide a spoon gently under it and scrape it off.
- I find it easier to cut the heart in half and scrape off the choke.
- This is the best way to prepare artichokes if you want to keep them whole for an excellent presentation and grill them before serving.
- The cooked artichoke should be cut in half.
How do you Eat Artichoke?
- Please don’t throw away those leaves because they have a lot of tasty meat.
- The bottom of the leaf should be dipped in a sauce (or melted butter).
- Then put it in your mouth and pull it out slowly through your teeth to get the pulp out of the leaves. Throw away the last petal. Keep going until you’ve eaten all the leaves!
Artichokes also have a lot of vitamin C, folic acid, and potassium, which makes them a healthy choice. Dieters love this food because it takes a little longer to eat. Marinated artichoke hearts are often used in salads, but because they still have some of the oil that kept them fresh, they may have more fat.