Preparing artichokes

Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) is a type of perennial thistle that originates from Mediterranean Europe. Artichokes are the edible bud of the plant measuring 8–15 cm diameter with numerous triangular scales,that develops into flowers. The fleshy lower portions of the involucral bracts and the base, known as the “heart” are the edible parts of the bud. The florets in the center of the bud (which is purple in color) is called the “choke” and are inedible in older larger flowers.

Artichokes are normally is boiled or steamed until tender. Most people prefer not to cover the pot when the artichokes are being boiled, to prevent the artichoke from browning

Cut artichokes will also turn brown due to acid and chlorophyll oxidation. To counter this, they are placed in water with vinegar or lemon juice. The scale leaves are peeled and eaten one at a time, sometimes dipped in sauces like hollandaise, butter, mayonnaise or lemon juice. The inedible choke is then removed before the remaining heart is eaten.

How to Prepare Artichokes

The below steps outline how to clean, prepare and cook artichokes:

  1. Clean the artichoke by running cool water over it. Make sure that you rinse betwen the leaves (but do not pull on them). Dry with a towel after you\’ve given the artichoke a good rinsing.
  2. Cut the tip off the top of the artichoke about 1 1/2 inch from the top.
  3. Then with a pair of kitchen scissors, snip off the tip of the leaves. Be careful as these tips are sharp
  4. If you\’re planning on stuffing the artichoke, you can use them at this point. Cook the artichoke in boiling water for about 40 minutes then scoop out the purple leaves and fibres that cover the artichoke heart. Put in your stuffing. Place the artichokes in on a baking dish, sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and place under broiler 1-2 minutes. Then serve artichoke with some melted butter and lemon juice.

Tip: If you are not using the artichokes at this point, place them (uncooked) in some water with lemon juice

  1. To just use the artichoke hearts, remove all the leaves by pulling the outermost leaves first and work your way to the middle.
  2. Continue until you reach the heart of the artichoke (which is the innermost pale leaves).
  3. Cut the remnants of the leaves that you\’ve just pulled off around the base stem with a paring knife. Peel off the woody outer layer of the stem with a peeler.
  4. Remove the purple leave and the fibres at the centre. The artichoke is now ready to be cooked to your desired recipe.

Tip: If you are not using them immediately, place them in some water with lemon juice to prevent them from discoloring.

Cooking the Artichokes

Microwaving artichokes is the quickest way to cook an artichoke. You can do so by placing the artichokes stem up in a microwave-safe bowl, add 1-2 inch of water and cover the bowl with microwavable plate or with plastic wrap. Cook for 12-15 minutes if you have large artichokes, less if smaller. Let the artichoke stand for about 5 minutes before serving.

Steaming artichokes is a great way to cook artichokes because it maintains the high-nutrient content within the bud Steam the artichokes about 30 to 50 minutes over rapid-boiling water until tender. You can also grill artichokes, but you need to pre-cook them before grilling. This can be done by microwaving, steaming or boiling them. Cut the artichokes in half, then brush with some olive oil and grill until browned. If you want to give the artichokes a bit more flavor, you can braise them in seasoned liquid. Heat some olive oil, herbs, garlic, lemon, salt and pepper in a large saucepan or pot, then add 2 cups of water and heat until it boils. Add in the artichokes and cover, then reduce heat and simmer until tender. This takes about 25 to 40 minutes.

Other ways of cooking artichokes include roasting them (pre-cook them before roasting) by brushing them with olive oil, arranging in roasting pan and roast in 425°F oven until tender (which takes about 10 to 20 minutes); and deep frying by dipping bite-size artichoke hearts with beaten egg and flour and deep fry in skillet or in deep fat fryer at 350°Funtil golden brown and crisp.

Pressure cooking artichokes is said to be a fast and easy way to cook artichokes. Squeeze one lemon on freshly cut artichokes and roll the outside in olive oil. Then place the artichokes stem up in a pressure cooker, pour in 1 ½ cups of water and add one teaspoon of salt. Set the pressure cooker to low-pressure setting and place on the stove on high. Once the pressure is released, the stove is turned down to medium and allowed to cook for 22 minutes.

Warning: Release the pressure in the cooker before you open the lid!

Once all the steam has been released unlock the lid and remove. Take the artichokes out and set them aside to cool. With a spoon, remove the center (the choke which is inedible). You can now stuff your artichokes or prepare them in any other way you prefer.

More Reading:

How to Trim an Artichoke:

Preparing and Cooking the Artichoke: