I’m lucky to have a greengrocer who dares to stock artichokes. Some growers keep a small crop on the side, it seems, and some plants come from local back yards. To most people the fresh variety remains a mystery. I’ve been asked what they are and what you do with them.
There’s a lot of fancy stuff on the grocers’ shelves that has little going for it, IMO. Dragon fruit? Gorgeous to look at but tasteless. Chokos? OK, plentiful on someone’s back fence but flavour ditto.
I love artichokes. I love them for sensible reasons. I love them for shallow reasons.
They are fun. They taste good. They’re easy to prepare for a spectacular outcome. They are strange, esoteric, arcane (great word). They are a great vehicle for sauces such as hollandaise, mayonnaise, vinaigrette. They are an excuse for an artichoke plate! They are healthy. (Gosh! Never thought I’d stoop so low. More later.)
But most of all, I like them because they are slow to eat. They take time (like eating crabs), time to chat and lick your fingers.
To prepare them, pull off perhaps the two bottom rows of very small petals, cut off the stem, discard. Cut off the top 3-4 cm and trim the rest of the leaves with scissors, just to neaten the globe.
Have some water simmering with a cut lemon in it to help keep the artichoke's colour. Be warned. With all the trimming, there will be debris! Simmer in gently rolling water for at least 15 minutes. This is not the time for "modern" crunchy vegetables. Check they are very tender by piercing the bottom with a knife tip.
Drain the artichokes up-side-down. Serve at room temperature, on a plate with a dipping bowl of sauce per person. (An artichoke plate, of course, is designed to hold the bulb, hold the sauce and also hold the discarded leaves in an orderly fashion.)
How do you eat them? Now you've done the work, how do you get the reward?
Start at the bottom. Pull off a petal. You will eat only the soft base (the rest is inedible). Dip the end into your sauce. Now for the tricky part. Turn it over, concave down, and pull/scrape away the flesh with your lower teeth. (See my teethmarks, above.)
Keep going round and around until you get to the hairy choke. (This is the part that becomes the flower.) With a small sharp knife, trim this away. (Often it will pull away easily.) You have now reached the prize - the artichoke heart. Voilà.
OK, you're not going to be gorging yourself with this but the pleasure is not only the flavour but the slowness. (All this for just the tip, you ask. Surely saner and more ethical than hummingbirds' tongues.)
Tick if this helps. Tell me how you go. Comment or add to the conversation, below.