Hidden Gems of the Produce Section: Artichokes
For being a delicate, unopened flower bud, the artichoke is really intimidating. Although I have used canned artichoke hearts a time or two, testing the recipes for this article will be my first attempt at cooking one whole.
Basic Artichoke Anatomy
The produce item you see on the shelf is the bud of a thistle. The leaves surround a fuzzy center called the “choke” which sits on top of the meaty core, called the “heart.”
The heart is completely edible.
The choke is fuzzy and very fibrous, so it’s only edible in baby artichokes.
There is a small part of the leaves, near the base that attaches to the heart, and that is edible. Scraping that small part away with your teeth is the best way to enjoy it.
Tips for Choice, Use and Storage
Pick plump artichokes with tightly closed leaves, and look for ones that seem to feel heavy for their size. During the winter they may appear white, blistered or more bronze, but these discolorations do not affect quality. Other insights:
- Pull back a leaf or two to make sure the heart does not have any black blemishes.
- They can be refrigerated for up to one week in a plastic bag.
- Wait to wash until cooking – if stored wet, mold can grow between leaves.
- They are interactive and time-consuming to eat, so they can help with mindful eating.
Facts on Nutrition and Sourcing
Artichokes are a good source of fiber, vitamin C, folate and magnesium. The edible portion of one whole artichoke contains 25 calories, 6 grams of total carbohydrate (half of which is fiber) and 2 grams of protein. Artichokes are very high in antioxidant phytonutrients which may help with liver health.
The entire American artichoke crop is grown in California, but top producers worldwide include Spain, France and Italy.
If you are still a bit intimidated by the whole vegetable, you can try this recipe:
Roasted Artichoke Antipasto Salad
- 1 pound frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
- 2 tablespoons pitted Kalamata olives
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 2 strips orange zest
- 2 Roma tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- ¼ cup torn fresh basil leaves
- 3 tablespoons dry white wine
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Toss the artichoke hearts, olives, capers, orange zest, tomatoes and garlic with the wine, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
- Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and roast, stirring once or twice, until the tomatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Transfer to a platter, drizzle with olive oil as desired, and top with basil.
Here’s the recipe I will use when I make my first attempt at cooking whole artichokes:
Simply Roasted Artichokes
- 2 large whole artichokes, top 1 inch and stem removed
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- Salt, as desired
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Place artichokes stem-side down in a bowl and drizzle with lemon juice. Slightly separate the leaves with your hands.
- Drizzle artichokes with olive oil, and season with salt.
- Insert slices of garlic into center and under leaves as able.
- Tightly wrap each artichoke twice with heavy-duty aluminum foil.
- Place in baking dish and bake in the preheated oven until sizzling, about 1 hour 20 minutes.
As a dietitian, mayonnaise is not a food I frequently recommend. However, everyone seemed to recommend mayo-based dipping sauces to pair with artichoke. This first time, at least, I will do it right with this recipe.
Balsamic Garlic Dipping Sauce
- 5 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
Combine and mix all of the dip ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.