Thursday, May 11, 2006
Lately I have been eating fresh artichokes almost every day. Sam's Club had very nice ones, in a bag of 4, for a good price the last couple of weeks. Prep is simple: Simmer in 1/4 to 1/3 pot of hot water with extra-virgin olive oil for 1 hour, cool, and chill, or eat warm right from the pot. I have been enjoying them cold at work with salad dressing for dipping. Pull the leaves, one at a time, and draw them between your teeth to scrape off the tender part. Dunking in melted butter, salad dressing, or spiced mayonnaise is optional. When you get to the very-tiny leaves, you can usually just bite the ends off of those, and the smallest ones are too small to bother with and should be discarded (the last two to three rows). The developing thistle part will remain. This looks like a small patch of hair-like fibers. Either scoop these small spines out with a spoon, or pull out with your fingers in clumps. They are not edible. Try to get only the spines as what remains is the best part. The remaining "heart" is then cut up into smaller pieces and eaten. All of this seems normal to me, however I noticed my co-workers looking at me like I was eating fish-eye salad or something as strange. I guess the artichoke must look rather odd to someone only familiar with the marinated hearts that are used in cooking. Kind of like a giant green hemlock cone. The artichoke is actually a thistle and if left to mature produces a large thistle-like bloom (see photo). It is a member of the same family as Burdock (Gobo), Dandelion, Sunflower, and the misnamed Jerusalem Artichoke. There are many great resources on the internet regarding preparation, and even growing them yourself. Even though they are a warm-weather perennial, I have seen instructions for growing them successfully in the northeast as an annual. Do try one!