The artichoke is a widely eaten vegetable, especially in the countries of Europe and Africa. The leaves and heart of this vegetable are the parts that should be consumed. Likewise, artichokes are very high in antioxidants. As a matter of fact, research shows that its antioxidant content is considered to be one of the highest among vegetables.
Proper Selection and Storage
Selecting the perfect artichoke is not rocket science. Although, many people avoid cooking this wonderful vegetable because they seem unusual. Don’t let the appearance deceive you!
- Check the leaves – Leaves should be clinging together tightly. Opened leaves indicate that the artichoke will lack taste. Also, leaves unfolding or sticking out is a clear sign that the artichoke is a little old.
- Check the stem – An artichoke that’s probably old would have a dark brown stem at the region where it’s cut.
- Check the weight – A good artichoke is heavy and firm. Press against the bottom of the artichoke to determine that.
- NEVER buy artichokes that have soft and brown spots – This is a clear sign that the artichoke is rotten.
Storing artichokes is quite simple.
- Artichokes should be stored in the refrigerator’s crisper or vegetable drawer.
- Never place them in plastic bags. This will increase moisture that could make them rot quickly.
- To freeze artichokes for latter use, wrap it tightly in foil and put in an airtight container. It could last for 6-8 months.
- As much as possible, use fresh artichokes instead.
- Cooked artichokes can last for 4 days if refrigerated.
How to Trim Artichokes
- Look for artichokes that have fresh-looking stem ends and tight compact heads – Cut stems will be brown, but try to look for one that isn’t dried out.
- Trim the stem – Cut off and remove the stem end of the artichoke. The amount of stem to be removed would depend on the preparation method. For grilled or Roman-style artichokes, the brown bit should be the only part removed and the stem must be peeled after cooking. For steamed artichokes, you should cut close to the base, so the artichoke could stand.
- Remove the thorny crown (optional) – The crown of the artichoke should be discarded. This isn’t required, but would be nice for the eventual eaters of artichokes.
- Cut off the thorns (optional) – The thorny tops of each remaining leaf should be taken away.
- The tough, small, dark-green outer leaves should be pulled off.
After following all these steps, you’ll have a nicely trimmed artichoke that’s ready for cooking.
How to Trim Baby Artichokes
Trimming baby artichokes could be quite tedious. For that reason, as much as possible, choose the best artichokes. Baby artichokes should have tight, compact heads, and the stem ends should be fresh-cut. Also, like most vegetables, they should feel a little heavier for their size.
Note: You might be tempted to do one step on several baby artichokes all at once before moving on to the next step. However, it is suggested that you fully trim an artichoke first before starting on the next one. This will make the job faster.
- Start by removing the outer leaves – Work with one artichoke at a time. Pull off and remove the tough outer leaves. The leaves should be ripped off in the opposite direction of their growth. Pull them down and away from the artichoke. Through doing this, you’ll be pulling the extra tough fibers together with the leaf.
- Continue pulling until the light green leaves start to appear – The leaves should be pulled until the remaining leaves are a kid-glove soft, and light green (almost yellowish). It’s alright to overdo it rather than ending with inedible baby artichokes!
- Trim the tops of the leaves – The medium green and dark tops of remaining leaves should be cut off.
- Trim the stems – Cut off the stem ends. Unlike older artichokes, you don’t need to worry about the “meat” located in the stem. So go ahead and cut it.
- Trim the sides – With a pairing knife, gently remove any remaining medium green or dark parts on the sides of the artichoke.
Alas! You’ve successfully trimmed a baby artichoke. To keep it from oxidizing, immerse it in acidic water; either lemon juice to a quart of cold water, or 2 tablespoons of white vinegar.
Prepping the Artichoke Hearts
The innermost leaves and the meaty bottoms are called the hearts. They’re mouth-watering when braised, sauteed, or roasted. The fresh ones are tender enough that you could eat them raw.
- The dark-green leaves of the artichoke should be snapped off until the tender inner leaves appear.
- Cut off everything, but leave 1 inch of the stem as well as the top third of the leaves.
- With a pairing knife, peel away the outer layer of the stem in order to remove the base of the leaves.
- Cut the artichoke in half (lengthwise).
- Using a small spoon or a melon baller, scoop out the hair chokes and the inner leaves.
Easy Ways to Cook Artichokes
There are a number of ways on how to cook your artichokes.
- Add water to a casserole and let it boil. Then, lower the heat and place the artichokes upright in it.
- Generally, boiling an artichoke would take 30-45 minutes until it’s done.
- In order to ensure that the artichoke is fully immersed in water, you should cover the pan with a lid.
- A pinch of salt should be added to the water to preserve the color and the taste of the artichoke.
- For added flavor, you could add few cloves of garlic or use a vegetable or chicken broth instead of normal water.
- To check if it’s done, try inserting a knife near the stem. If it slides easily, then it’s ready to serve.
- Before eating, turn it upside down on a paper towel to get rid of the excess water.
- In a steaming basket, bring water to boil. Lemon juice and salt should be added for extra flavor.
- The artichokes should be placed side down on a rack.
- Let it simmer for 45 minutes or until it gets cooked.
- Don’t forget to keep an eye on the water level. In case it gets too dry, add more water.
- Before consuming, drain the excess water with a paper towel.
If you want to recycle your steamed or boiled artichokes, grilling would be perfect!
- Slice a pre-cooked artichoke, lengthwise and rub olive oil on it.
- Place the sliced artichoke on the grill and cook it until it achieves a certain level of crispiness. This would usually take 3-4 minutes.
- To have it evenly grilled, rotate it a couple of times.
Grilling gives a delicious smoky flavor to the artichokes and they taste best when served with different dips or mayonnaise.
Perhaps the best way to cook artichokes (especially baby artichokes) is to cut a baby artichoke into pieces and heat a pan drizzled with olive oil or butter. Saute these pieces together until they turn brown. Add a dash of salt & pepper to taste, and a little lemon juice for an added zest.
Cooking artichoke really needs some time and effort, especially during the preparation. However, you could say that the effort is totally worth it as you savor the flavor of your masterpiece.
Extra Artichoke Tips
- It’s possible to make an artichoke tea. Just take 8-10 leaves, chop them, and add 2 cups of water. Bring to boil and brew for 5 minutes.
- A stainless steel knife and aluminum or iron cooking pots could discourage discoloration.
- Spraying a little of lemon juice could prevent the darkening of artichokes.
- To determine whether an artichoke is fully cooked, try if you can easily pull the leaf from the base.
- You could enhance the sweet flavors of artichokes if you’ll eat them while drinking wine.
- The edible buds of artichokes have a slightly nutty flavor.
When it comes to eating artichokes, most people’s favorite part is the heart. Though, for those who aren’t aware, the leaves contain loads of powerful health benefits:
- Good for the Liver – Thanks to silymarin and cynarin, artichokes are very healthy for the liver. For one, it could regenerate liver tissues. For centuries, it has been used in folk and alternative medicine when it comes to treating liver ailments.
- Rich in Fiber – Tired of being constipated? A large artichoke contains a quarter of the suggested daily intake of fiber, and a medium sized artichoke has more fiber compared to a cup of prunes.
- Better Digestion – Due to the fact that these wonder veggies are a natural diuretic, they could improve gallbladder function and aid digestion.
- Hangover Treatment – The positive effects of artichokes to our livers make it a very effective hangover treatment. It’s time to say goodbye to the hair of the dog remedy. Use the leaves of an artichoke instead.
- Reduces Cholesterol – Ingredients in artichoke could reduce cholesterol levels by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase.
- High in Antioxidants – A study made by the USDA revealed that artichokes contain more antioxidants than any other vegetables, ranking 7th in a study of antioxidant levels of 1000 different foods.
- Cancer Prevention and Treatment – The leaf extract of an artichoke could induce cell death (apoptosis) and decrease cell growth in many different forms of cancer such as: breast cancer, leukemia, and prostate. Also, an Italian research found out that the flavonoids present in this vegetable could reduce the risks of breast cancer.
Great Artichoke Recipes