Looking like the vegetable version of a pinecone, I wonder what brave soul first figured out that the prickly artichoke was good to eat.
Served warm, room temperature or chilled, I often put a platter out for guests hanging out in the kitchen to snack on as I finish cooking dinner. When the leaves are gone and the fuzzy choke is removed, a prize awaits – the artichoke heart. Slice and devour.
Spring- Peak Artichoke Season
I remember my first artichoke as a kid. A neighbor brought this strange vegetable over, ready to eat. She taught us how to snap off a leaf and pull the inside of the leaf across your teeth to scrap off the meaty part. With an earthy, nutty flavor, I’ve been a fan ever since.
While artichokes are available almost year round, spring is their peak season. I like to boil or steam them and serve with a quick mayonnaise-based lemon garlic dipping sauce.
How to Buy Artichokes
Fresh artichokes should be compact, plump and feel heavy for their size. If the artichoke squeaks when squeezed, it’s fresh. The leaves should be green and tightly closed. If the leaves (called bracts) are brown and splitting, the artichoke is most likely past its prime.
The exception to this is winter harvest artichokes. They may have light brown scaling on the leaves due to frostbite. Although not as pretty, they still taste good.
Boil, Steam, Grill
After boiling or steaming, pluck the hot artichokes out of the pan with tongs, drain, and place on a platter for serving. For extra flavor and presentation, try finishing them on the grill.
Split the artichokes in half from top to bottom, remove the fuzzy choke, brush with a little olive oil and place on the grill for a few minutes until a lightly charred. Grilling gives them a lightly smokey flavor.
After grilling, cut the artichoke halves in two for easier to eat quarters size pieces. Have an empty bowl handy to toss discarded leaves into.
A versatile vegetable, artichokes can be served as an appetizer, snack, salad, or as part of a main course. Pack them up for a picnic or tailgate. Use them for lunch and stuff with chicken, crab or tuna salad. Recipes abound for ways to use the green globes, so enjoy them while they are at peak season and throughout the year.
Other links you might enjoy on artichoke recipes and information:
The annual Artichoke Festival is in May in Castroville, California, the self-proclaimed artichoke capital of the world.
Link to the California Artichoke Advisory Board
A variety of recipes using artichokes, at Simply Recipes