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Sunday, December 30, 2012


Artichokes are a vegetable that I remember from my childhood.  Again it was at Grandma's who lived down stairs from us in the house in Brooklyn.  When we moved to Long Island,  I did not see artichokes for quite a while, but I remembered how good they are.  When I remember artichokes I remember how grandpa would put the whole petal in his mouth and chew and then discard what was left.  I think of Little Rascals when character Stymie was given an artichoke and when told what it was stated, "It might choke Artie but it's not going to choke Stymie!"  Then there is comedian Pat Cooper who took an artichoke to school as a kid where his classmates jibed "Look at the kid, he's eating flowers.

Artichokes  are the giant unopened buds of a flowering plant, an edible thistle.  They have been favorites in Spain, Italy, and other Mediterranean countries for hundreds of years.  The most common artichoke is the globe type.  Other types are the oval type, the baby artichoke,  and most recently the thornless artichoke. 

The peak season for artichokes is March, April, and May when California ships half of it's crop. They also show up in the fall but July and August are the worst time.  The weather is just too hot. Look for heavy, firm artichokes with densely packed leaves and a uniform dusty green color.  Artichokes are quite perishable, so use immediately or cut off a thin slice of the stem and drop some water on it and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for no more than a week.

Cooking artichokes is not difficult.  Rinse well with cold water.  Use a soft kitchen brush to remove the dust on the leaves.  Slice a quarter inch off the stem and one inch off the top.  You can then use kitchen scissors to trim the thorns on the petals, but the thorns tend to soften during cooking. Open the petals to allow any seasoning to fall between them. You  can then boil the artichokes in salted water with a little lemon juice for 30 - 40 minutes.  You can also steam  with stems up for about 30 - 40 minutes.  To bake  double wrap your artichokes tightly in tin foil and bake at 425 degrees for about an hour.  Artichokes are done when a sharp knife goes easily into the base.   Cooked artichokes can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a week.

Artichokes are very high in antioxidants which are associated with reducing risk of heart disease, certain cancers, Alzheimer's, and other chronic diseases.  They are an excellent source of fiber and vitamin C.  The also contain folate, potassium, and magnesium.  Artichokes are a source of plant protein, a good substitute  for the saturated fat and cholesterol in animal protein.

To eat an artichoke remove one petal at a time and pull it  through your teeth to remove the soft tender flesh.  When the petals are gone use a short knife or spoon to remove and discard the hairy "choke".   Then it's  time to enjoy the sweetest, tenderest part of the artichoke, the heart.

So, eat up, enjoy, I'll show you how.