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How to Choose, Cook, and Eat an Artichoke

How to Choose, Cook, and Eat an Artichoke

What is an Artichoke?

Artichokes are the immature flower bud of a thistle. If left to flower, an artichoke’s blossoms can measure up to seven inches in diameter and are a blue-violet color, similar to the milk thistle. They are in the Asteraceae family, which includes flowering plants like the daisy and chrysanthemum, as well as sunflowers, safflowers, and dandelion. Artichokes are grown in France, Italy, Spain, and the U.S. California is home to Castroville, a town 20 miles northeast of Monterey, which has been dubbed the unofficial “Artichoke Capital of the World". This certainly isn't an exaggeration as California produces almost all commercially grown artichokes!

How to Choose an Artichoke

Although there are many ways to go about picking out an artichoke at the grocery store, we have four guidelines to help you shop:

  1. Look for artichokes with closed petals. Since an artichoke is a flower bud, as it ages, the peals open. An artichoke with splayed petals signals that the artichoke has lost some of its freshness.
  2. Listen for squeaky petals. Give the artichoke a gentle squeeze, if the petals squeak when they rub against one another, the artichoke is fresh.
  3. Feel the weight. A good artichoke should feel heavy in your hands, if it feels light, it might be because it has dried out.
  4. Frost-kissed isn't a bad thing. You may see some less-than-perfect artichokes with some browning on the petals, and although the color may not look as pleasing, these frost-kissed artichokes are delicious and have a more intense flavor than their frost-free counterparts.

How to Cook an Artichoke

  1. Trim the petals. If there are small thorns present on the tips, take kitchen scissors to cut them off. Although the thorns are edible and soften during cooking, the trimmed tips make the artichoke easier to handle.
  2. Slice off the top. Using a serrated bread knife or chef’s knife, slice ¾ inch off the top of the artichoke.
  3. Remove small petals at the base. Pull off any smaller petals toward the base and stem.
  4. Remove excess stem. If you aren’t a fan of the bitterness (some find it delicious), remove any stem over an inch from the base.
  5. Clean the artichoke. With cold water, and while pulling back some of the petals a bit, rinse out the artichoke.
  6. Using your preferred steaming setup, steam the artichokes for 25 to 35 minutes (or until the heart is tender when pierced with a paring knife and the inner petals pull out easily). Don’t forget to add some lemon juice and salt to the water!

How to Eat an Artichoke

Artichoke can be eaten hot, cold, or at room temperature, and are often enjoyed with some sort of dipping sauce. The dipping sauce can be simple (melted butter or mayonnaise) or a more complex sauce of garlic, butter, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and balsamic vinegar.

To eat, begin by pulling off one of the outermost petals. Dip the petal, with the white portion facing down, into the sauce of your choosing. The edible part is primarily at the base of the petal, pull the base through slightly clenched teeth to strip off the petal meat. Continue with each petal until you get to the heart. When you get to the heart, remove the choke (the fuzzy layer) by scooping it out with a spoon. The choke is too fibrous to eat in regular artichokes but is edible in baby artichokes. For some, the heart is the most delicious and tender part of the artichoke! It can be enjoyed solo, or with dip. You can refrigerate cooked artichokes, but make sure to refrigerate them within two hours of cooking and to eat them within a few days. The best way to reheat artichokes is in the oven, drizzled with olive oil, and wrapped in aluminum foil. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees, unwrap, and enjoy.

There are a million different ways to cook and eat artichokes, show off your favorite by tagging us at @SigonasHome on Instagram or Facebook!