Artichoke Friend or Foe?

30 Mar

Flower of Artichoke (Cynara scolymus). Jardin ...

Flower of Artichoke (Cynara scolymus). Jardin des Plantes, Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To see more of Matthew Carden’s photos visit his site.

(This is how I used to think of Artichokes, evil little plants)

The first time some kids are introduced to artichokes is in Winnie The Poo, Eeyore the old grey donkey, loves thistles but he is gloomy and melancholy, so it is hard to know if  he likes them. The thistle is the bloomed artichoke, that beautiful purple flower is the center of the un-harvested artichoke left to grow.   The artichoke is a spiny thistle of the sunflower family, topped with that bright purple silky thread.  Eeyore loves thistles, those purple flowers must taste so delicious and the spiny spikes must not bother him much! Being humans and not fictional characters we have to do a little prep work on the artichoke to enjoy them.  Each leaf has a spike at the very tip and boy do they hurt if they poke you. (see photo above)

We happen to love artichokes in our house, they can be intimidating but if you know how to prepare them, I think your kids will love them.  The season in California is all the way from the end of winter to June. The first chokes that you will see in the store may look brownish and slightly unattractive, these are generally “frost kissed” ugly, but tasty.

When choosing an artichoke choose the hefty one with tightly packed leaves. Usually we all eat two, so buy enough to go around. They tiny ones are a different story to prepare, they are usually steamed. cut in half , scraped out and pan-fried, more work and a different flavor all together. Kids get a kick out of pulling the leaves off the large ones!




Once you have your artichokes at home you will want to use a sharp serrated knife to cut the tip-off, about 1/4 of the total artichoke.

While you have your knife handy trip the stem, leaving about 1/2 inch.


Next, you will want to use a lemon to rub all the cut surfaces (even the stem) to prevent browning.

If you are preparing a lot of artichokes hold the cut ones in a large bowl of acidulated water (lemon water)


Now to tackle those annoying spikes, use a scissor to cut off the ugly part of the leaf along with the spike.

While you are at it peel off the small leaves near the base of the artichoke, they don’t taste great and  don’t have any meat on them.


Now you should have a beautiful artichoke with a nice haircut, waiting to be cooked.


This is a pile of scrap from just one artichoke!


Steaming a fresh Artichoke

Place a steaming insert in a large wide pot

Fill the pot with water until it reaches just under the steaming basket

Place one layer of rinsed and trimmed Artichokes into the steaming basket with stems facing up; cover with lid.

On high heat, bring the water in the steaming pot to a boil. Steam artichokes until they are tender. Cooking time is about 30 minutes for a medium-sized artichoke or 45 minutes for a very large artichoke.

To know when your artichokes are done use a sharp knife in the stem, if it goes through the artichoke base with ease. your artichoke is perfectly cooked and ready to eat. Remove from pot and turn up right on a plate.

To Eat the artichoke

This is the fun part…the part the kids will like.

Pull the leaves off one by one and dip in the lemony sauce. (below)

scrape the meat off the inside of the leaves with your teeth.

When you get to the small light cone of leaves in the center, pull them out.

You will see the choke and its fuzz. Using a small spoon, scrape the fuzz out being careful not to get too much of the valuable flesh.

Now you should have a clean and delicious last few bites of the yummy choke!! Enjoy!!

Easy Lemon  Sauce

Use for dipping your artichoke leaves into.

1/2 cup of  mayonnaise

zest and juice of 1 lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

2 teaspoons fresh chopped parsley


a pinch of smoked paprika

1 garlic clove chopped


Combine all ingredients and stir.


One Response to “Artichoke Friend or Foe?”

  1. Melissa March 30, 2012 at 8:53 AM #

    Sour cream is good too! Or butter with some bread crumbs.

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