Food: Learn all about artichokes
It’s strange, it’s lovely, it’s a thistle, it’s a flower, it’s the pale-green blossom of spring — it’s the artichoke. Artichokes are in season, so it’s time to go to the market and get some thorny deliciousness for yourself.
Artichokes may be a food you think you know — stripped down to its heart and frozen and packaged in a box, jar or can. But artichokes are delicious in all their forms. If you’ve never had the chance to buy them in their full, sculptural beauty, fresh off the plant, mature or young and tender, then you’re truly missing something.
The artichoke is a member of the cardoon family, which is native to the Mediterranean. Cultivation began there as early as the 9th century. The artichoke likes mild, dry climates for growing, and in the United States it seems to prefer California’s central valley almost exclusively. Being what it is, a leafy flower, makes it a great source of fiber. It’s also high in vitamin C and magnesium.
If you live in California, you’ve probably had the chance to savor a fresh artichoke. However, it might seem a little exotic to the rest of us. The big round globe, with all its layers, might be a little intimidating. What to do with it? What is edible? What is not?
Use fresh artichokes within a few days of purchase. You may want to trim off the prickly points of the leaves before preparing them. Surprisingly, most of the flower is edible. The only exceptions are the more fibrous end of the stem (the upper part of the stem is very good) and the center. This part of the large, mature artichoke is inedible.
There are many tasty and attractive ways to prepare fresh artichokes. Large heads are delicious stuffed and roasted. Or artichokes can be steamed and the leaves removed and served for dipping into any sauce your imagination allows. Once the fuzzy center — the “choke” of the artichoke — is removed, the hollowed out core can be used as a serving dish for salads or soups. Small, young artichokes don’t have to have the fibrous center choke removed, and can be cooked and eaten whole.
Try this wonderful recipe for Lemon Chicken With Artichokes and Olives. The simple combination of flavors showcases artichokes in a delicious way.
Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is “The Kitchen Diva’s Diabetic Cookbook.” Her website is http://www.divapro.com. To see how-to videos, recipes and much, much more, Like Angela Shelf Medearis, The Kitchen Diva! on Facebook. Read Gina Harlow’s blog about food and gardening at http://www.peachesandprosciutto.com. Recipes may not be reprinted without permission from Angela Shelf Medearis.
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