Artichokes 101 – The Basics

Artichokes are an interesting item found in the produce section of some grocery stores. Many of us have no idea what to do with them. Yet they have been enjoyed as food since ancient times. A little know-how can go a long way when preparing these flower buds. In the video below, I cover the basics of what artichokes are, how to prepare them, cook them and enjoy them, and more. To access my video notes, please see below the video link. Enjoy!

I hope this helps!

Artichokes 101 — The Basics

About Artichokes
The globe artichoke (also known as French or green artichoke) is a flowering bud of a thistle plant. It is believed to be native to the Mediterranean area. We typically eat the flower buds of the plant before they come into bloom, and also the “heart” or the base of the plant. The mention of the artichoke as a garden plant goes back as far as the 8th century BC. Ancient Greeks and Romans are known to have enjoyed it as a food. Today, artichokes are grown in Europe, South America, and the United States, with California producing almost all of the artichokes consumed in this country.

Nutrition Tidbits
Artichokes are an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C, folate, magnesium. They are also good source of vitamin B complex, vitamin K, vitamin E, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc. Artichokes also contain high levels of antioxidants, so they are VERY healthful vegetables to eat!

How to Select Artichokes
Choose artichokes that are heavy for their size, with bright green leaves, and tightly compacted leaves. Avoid those with discolored or brown-tipped leaves or with a dried brown stem. The smaller heads are more tender than larger ones.

How to Store Artichokes
Store unwashed artichokes in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. They should keep for about a week.

How to Preserve Artichokes
Artichokes can be frozen. But, they should not be frozen raw since they will become discolored and have a poor flavor when cooked. To prepare them for freezing, remove all of the outer leaves and the fuzzy choke, leaving the pale, inner leaves attached to the base or heart. Trim the tops and stems. Wash the hearts in cold water and drain well.

Blanch the trimmed artichokes in a mixture of 1/2 cup lemon juice or 1 tablespoon of ascorbic acid to 2 quarts water. Boil small artichokes for 3 to 5 minutes, and medium sized artichokes for 7 minutes. Place face down on a towel to drain. Placed the drained pieces on cookie sheets, face-side up, in the freezer until fully frozen. Once frozen, place desired portions into suitable containers and return to the freezer. Steamed artichokes can also be wrapped in foil, placed in plastic bags and frozen whole. Frozen artichokes should keep for 6 to 8 months.

To thaw artichokes, remove them from the freezer and wrap them tightly in aluminum foil. Place the artichokes in foil over steaming water until thawed and cook as desired.

Fresh vs Frozen vs Canned
More people eat the tender artichoke hearts than those who eat the leaves. This makes frozen and canned artichoke hearts excellent, convenient choices. Choosing canned or frozen artichoke hearts can save money and time in the kitchen, and is often the preferred way to enjoy artichokes.

This website provides an excellent comparison of frozen vs canned artichoke hearts, how to prepare them, along with some proven serving suggestions. It’s well worth visiting if you’re serious about eating artichoke hearts…

How to Prepare Artichokes
First peel away the loose petals at the base by the stem. Cut the stem away at the base of the artichoke, leaving about one-fourth of an inch. Trim the top points by cutting away an inch from the top to expose the inner part of the petals. Use kitchen shears to trim the thorns from the outer petals. Rinse under cold, running water to remove any trapped dirt or debris, or soak briefly in a bowl of lukewarm water. Allow them to drain upside down on a towel to remove trapped water. Rub a cut lemon half against the trimmed parts of the artichoke or place them in a bowl of lemon juice with water to prevent browning.

Whether you are cooking and serving it whole, or removing the leaves first, the fuzzy choke deep inside must be removed and discarded. It is not edible. The prized “heart” of the artichoke if found below the fuzzy, prickly thistle or “choke.”

Cooking/Serving Methods
When cooking artichokes, avoid using iron or aluminum cookware because they can discolor the artichokes and change the flavor. Instead, use glassware, stainless steel, or enamelware cookware to prepare artichokes. Also, they tend to turn brown easily, so adding some lemon juice to them or to the cooking water will help to prevent that reactions. The following cooking suggestions are provided by

To boil, place trimmed whole artichokes in a deep pot and fully submerge in cold water seasoned with 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 2 of your favorite fresh herb sprigs like thyme or basil [optional]. Boil artichokes for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on their size, just until tender. They are done when you can insert a sharp knife with little pressure.

To steam, place trimmed whole artichokes on a steaming insert in a pot filled with water barely touching the bottom of the insert. Steam for about 45 minutes, or until you can easily pull away a petal from the base. Depending on size, cooking times will vary.

To roast, after trimming, slice artichokes vertically in half. Use a spoon to scrape out the fuzzy choke, rub the cut side with half a lemon, drizzle with olive oil and season with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Roast at 375ºF cut side down on a baking sheet until tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Serve cut side up with grated Parmesan cheese.

To grill, after trimming sliced artichokes in half vertically, remove the fuzzy choke and submerge in a bowl of water mixed with the juice of a lemon. This will keep artichokes from turning brown while you prep the remaining other ones. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add artichokes. Boil for about 15 minutes, or until slightly firm. Remove from the pot and drain. Drizzle with olive oil, more lemon juice, garlic powder, salt and pepper and finish on the grill, cooking for 5 to 10 minutes, while turning the artichokes often to prevent burning.

To microwave, after trimming place whole artichokes in a microwavable baking dish with enough water to almost submerge and cover. Microwave on high for 20 to 30 minutes until tender. Cooking times may vary based on microwave and size of artichoke.

To enjoy, remove the pedals of the artichoke and arrange them around your favorite dip. Meanwhile, prepare the heart of the artichoke by twisting off the small tender inner leaves to reveal the soft, fuzzy but inedible choke. Use a spoon to scrape out the choke to reveal the soft fleshy base of the artichoke known as the “heart”. Serve with melted butter as a side dish.

Artichokes are served as a hot vegetable often with a sauce or as a cold salad or appetizer. To eat it, break off the leaves and slide a leaf between your teeth to remove the softer edible portion.
The following are some artichoke serving ideas from the website

• Use melted butter, garlic butter, or hollandaise as a dipping sauce for hot artichokes.
• Blend artichoke hearts with sautéed spinach, sour cream, cream cheese and parmesan cheese to make a dip for pita chips or your favorite cracker.
• Add artichoke hearts to a grilled cheese sandwich or pizza, or stuff them for an impressive and beautiful dish.
• Toss artichoke hearts, celery and parmesan together for a modern update on a regular green salad.
• Here’s an inspired idea: deep fry artichoke leaves in beer batter and serve with a creamy, herb dipping sauce.

Herbs/Spices That Go Well With Artichokes
Olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, lemon pepper, and basil

Foods That Go Well With Artichokes
Dairy: melted butter, cream cheese, goat cheese, sour cream, cream sauces, Parmesan cheese, and feta cheese

Produce: spinach, lemon, garlic, onion, avocado, eggplant, sundried tomatoes, shallots, potatoes and arugula

Protein: chicken, fish, seafood, and eggs

Other: hollandaise sauce, mayonnaise, bread, pasta, beans, lentils and peas

Recipe Links
Artichoke and Spinach Dip

Stuffed Baked Artichokes

The Most Amazing Roasted Artichokes

Mediterranean Roasted Artichokes

How to Cook and Eat an Artichoke

20 Amazing Artichoke Recipes

Roasted Whole Artichokes

Artichoke Pesto Pasta

Whole30 Spinach Artichoke Dip

Easy Paleo Artichoke Hummus

Paleo Artichoke Pesto Hummus

Steamed Whole Artichokes

The Ultimate Stuffed Artichoke Recipe

24 Recipes for Artichokes, Both Fresh and Jarred

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.


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