Artichokes? No way! I can sympathize with the sentiment.  Artichokes are a seemingly intimidating vegetable, what with its many leaves and spikes (it is the edible pre-bloom flower of a specific type of thistle).  But, once you know how to handle and prepare artichokes, the intimidation factor decreases.

To start, choose an artichoke that is a healthy green color and is firm. A good sign of freshness is when the leaves squeak when you press them together. Be aware of the spikes on the tips of the leaves as they can be sharp. If you aren’t cooking the artichoke right away, store in a plastic bag, unwashed, in the fridge for up to 4 days.  When preparing the artichoke, be sure to use stainless steel knives and pots because iron and aluminum will discolor it.

To prepare your artichoke, remove any excess petals on the stem or around the base.  Cut off about 1 inch of the artichoke top and then use kitchen scissors to clip off the tips of the remaining leaves to remove the spikes. If you are concerned about the cut edges browning, rub each cut with a slice of lemon. Then, using a vegetable peeler, peel the stem of the artichoke to get rid of the top layer of fiber and trim the stem to about 1 inch long. Lastly, rinse the artichoke well to get rid of any dirt or debris hiding between the leaves.

You can cook artichokes a number of different ways, including steaming, roasting, or grilling.  The most common way you’ll see artichokes prepared is steamed.  To steam, bring a pot with a steam basket in it to a boil. Add your artichoke to the steam basket, cover the pot, and steam for 20 – 45 minutes (depends on the size of your artichoke).  Start checking the artichoke for doneness at 20 minutes and then check every 5 minutes until done. Artichokes are done when a petal can be easily pulled off.  To eat, pull off a petal and dip the bottom of the petal into a dip.  Put the petal into your mouth about halfway, lightly bite down, and then pull the petal out, scraping the inner white flesh of the petal into your mouth.

Cut Artichokes

What about artichoke hearts?  The artichoke heart is located at the very base of the artichoke, right above the stem, and it is protected by the “choke,” a hairy layer that you don’t want to eat. To get to the heart, peel all the petals off your steamed artichoke (save the petals for eating!). When you get to the soft, small inner petals, grab them and twist to rip them off the stem.  This should expose the choke. Using a spoon, gently scrape the choke off, and what remains is the heart!

Another great way to eat artichokes is to roast them. Cut the prepared artichoke in half and place cut side up on a baking sheet. Rub the cut area of the artichoke with a slice of lemon to avoid browning and then brush the artichoke on all sides with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bake in a 400F oven for 30 – 50 minutes (you should be able to pierce the stem easily with a knife).  Then eat as you would a steamed artichoke!

Dips are important for elevating the artichoke. Mayonnaise is a common dip used with artichoke, but feel free to experiment.  You could try mayo mixed with a little balsamic vinegar, a creamy spinach dip, or a lemon garlic aioli.

You won’t get much out of each artichoke, so plan on about 1 artichoke per person.  If this seems like too much work (don’t worry, we get it), you can buy canned, jarred, or frozen artichokes (you can find them in Aisle 2 and Aisle 5).

Besides eating artichokes by themselves with dip, you can also use them in recipes (artichoke hearts are most likely to be used in recipes).  Some ideas are below:

Baked Crab and Asparagus Spread

Orzo Pasta Lunch Salad

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes with Artichokes