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Definition: artichoke from Philip's Encyclopedia

(globe artichoke) Tall, thistle-like perennial plant with large, edible, immature flower heads, native to the Mediterranean region. It has spiny leaves and blue flowers. Height: 0.9-1.5m (3-5ft). Family Asteraceae/Compositae; species Cynara scolymus. A different plant, the Jerusalem artichoke, is grown for its edible tubers. Family Asteraceae/Compositae; species Helianthus tuberosus.


Summary Article: Artichoke
from The Illustrated Cook's Book of Ingredients

The globe artichoke, which looks like an unopened flower bud, finds a home in Mediterranean climates around the world. Commercially, Italy and North Africa produce many varieties, ranging from tiny buds to large heads, while North America’s big, green globes come almost exclusively from cool, coastal California. Very small artichokes can be eaten in their entirety, while only the heart, or bottom, and fleshy bases of the leaves (bracts) of large heads are edible. The choke, which is the bunch of hairy fibers above the heart, is inedible. Artichokes have an earthy, nutty flavor with a slight astringency.

Buy

The artichoke season runs from late spring to mid-fall. Look for heads with tightly closed leaves and firm stalks. Cold weather will produce brown discolorations, but these don’t negatively affect flavor.

Store

For the best flavor, use artichokes as soon as you get them home. If you must keep them, cut a fresh end on the stalk, wrap in moist paper towels, and place in a plastic bag in the fridge; use within 1–2 days.

Eat

When preparing artichokes, prevent browning by rubbing all cut surfaces with lemon, or dropping the heads into water acidulated with lemon juice. The choke is easier to remove from large artichokes after cooking.

Fresh:

Hearts and the tender, fleshy part of leaves can be eaten raw in a salad or antipasto.

Cooked:

Coat small, whole artichokes in batter, or egg and crumbs, and deep-fry. In Italy, the leaf tips are trimmed and a mixture of breadcrumbs, olive oil, and cheese is stuffed behind the leaves, then the artichokes are roasted. Large heads can be braised, grilled, stuffed and roasted, pressure-cooked, or steamed until a skewer will slide easily into the heart.

Preserved:

Pickle hearts and tender inner portions of leaves, or preserve in olive oil.

Flavor pairings

Sausage, prosciutto, pancetta, anchovies, hollandaise sauce, Parmesan cheese, cream, garlic, lemon, olive oil, white truffles, white wine.

Classic recipes

Steamed artichokes; artichauts à la grecque; alcachofas con jamón; artichokes braised with white wine and garlic; tagine of lamb and artichokes; carciofi alla giudia; artichauts à la barigoule; torta di carciofi.

Green Globe

Widely available, this popular large-headed variety has succulent, fleshy leaves with a meaty flavor.

Baby purple artichoke

This immature variety has a mild artichoke flavor, with a hint of sweetness. Once trimmed, it is tender enough to be deep-fried, either whole or sliced into wedges.

Benicarló

From Valencia in Spain, this highly prized variety has achieved PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status. It has an exceptionally full, meaty flavor.

Violetta di Chioggia

Smaller and more elongated than the green-globe type, this handsome purple variety has an unobtrusive choke and a strong artichoke flavor.

Classic recipe
Steamed Artichokes

This simple, traditional French way of preparing artichokes is a true classic and needs no embellishment.

Serves 1

  • 1 artichoke
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • bay leaves, to serve and fresh rosemary stalks, to serve (optional)
  1. Break off any tough outer leaves from the artichoke and trim the stem level with the base. Snip off the pointed tips from the remaining leaves.

  2. Set the artichoke in a vegetable steamer (you can flavor the steaming water with bay and rosemary sprigs, if you wish). Cover and steam for about 30 minutes, or until you can pull away an outer leaf with complete ease.

  3. Melt the butter in a small pan, then add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Pour the warm lemon butter into a ramekin and serve alongside the hot artichoke.

  4. To eat, pluck off the leaves, one by one, dip the fleshy end in the melted butter, and scrape off the flesh with your teeth; discard the leaf. When you get to the little cone of pale inner leaves, pull this out to reveal the hairy choke; scoop all of this out with a spoon and discard. Then enjoy eating the succulent heart with the rest of the melted butter.

© 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

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