Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Artichokes: How to Prepare

Artichokes are a member of the thistle family.  It is a fairly large plant which produces a thorny bud at its center.  This thorny bud is mostly edible when properly prepared.  At the center of the artichoke, a "choke" or "beard" grow atop the artichokes center, or "heart".  While the "heart is the most prized part of the artichoke, the "beard" is only edible in very small blooms and usually discarded before eating the "heart".   If the artichoke bud is left to grow, the inedible "beard" will bloom into a beautiful, though indigestible, purple flower.

The first challenge to preparing an artichoke is finding a good one to eat.  Artichokes usually begin appearing in grocery stores late spring and remain available throughout the summer, with prices increasing late summer.  I usually find the prettiest and largest artichokes early summer.  They have larger heads with tight leaves, a pretty green color and almost no blemishes.  As the season progresses, the quality of the artichokes decrease but you should still look for these same qualities to find your ideal artichoke and you never want to buy artichokes that have large blemishes and molding spots.

To prepare an artichoke, you must first decide if you will be eating the whole artichoke or just the heart. In this post, we will be preparing the whole choke for boiling or steaming.

Preparing a Whole Artichoke
  1. Wash the artichoke.
  2. If the stem is long, remove and cut to a size that will fit in your pot.  Set aside.
  3. Place the artichoke on a cutting board.  Holding it tightly at the bottom, use a serrated knife to remove the top 1/3 of the artichoke.  Discard these leaves.
  4. Using a pair of kitchen sheers, cut the tips off of each of the remaining leaves.  Be carefull here since these leaves are often quite pointy.
  5. Rub the cut tips with lemon or other citrus to help prevent browning.  If allergic to citrus, no worries; the browing is not harmful.
Your whole artichoke is now ready to be steamed or boiled.

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