Spring is nearly here and with it comes lovely artichokes. Artichokes are perennial plants in the same family as dandelions and sunflowers, they are a thistle plant and, in most artichokes, there is a center that’s inedible, the ‘choke’. In cooler climates, such as California’s northern coast they can be grown as annual’s. Spring and fall are times when you can find fresh artichokes in the markets. An easy plant to grow, they do require full sun and will take up a large space, 3 feet or more. Be sure to cut the artichoke before the leaves begin to open and it blossoms into a flower.

When you choose your artichoke, you want to make sure that it’s firm when you press the sides and you’ll often hear a squeaky noise, that’s good. The leaves should be tight and closed. If there is a little bit of brown on the leaves that’s ok, it just means there was a little frost during its growing season but that’s not a bad thing. The inside will be perfectly delightful. You also might want to consider only organic artichokes since you’ll be eating parts of the plant that may have been sprayed with pesticides during its growing season. Pesticides cannot be washed off with water or vegetables soaps, they are oil based and you know what happens when oil and water mix! If you can’t find beautiful California Artichokes in the market, here is a great local source where you can order them, Melissa’s Produce, http://www.melissas.com/Organic-Artichokes-p/1375.htm

To store your artichokes, you could place in a plastic bag and store in the produce drawer of your refrigerator or just pop it into the drawer itself. They will last up to 7 days but best eaten within a few.

Rinse the artichoke under cool water; pull off the lower, smaller leaves and cut the stem at the base of the choke. If you have a nice long stem, you can cook this separately and eat it like you would the heart, it tastes the same. If desired, with a sharp chef’s knife cut across the top third of the artichoke and snip the sticker off the remaining leaves. Even though there are many ways to prepare a fresh artichoke, most people fall back to either boiling/steaming them, although it takes quite a while, up to half an hour or more. You could put them in a microwave bowl or in an Instant Pot adding a cup of water and cook for 10 minutes, cover the microwave ones, or grill them over hard wood. Anyway is fine with me.

Here’s the traditional method:

Put them into a large pot and cover with cool water, squeeze two lemons into the water and a little sea salt, bring to a boil and simmer until you can run a small knife through the bottom part of the artichoke, 30-45 minutes or longer depending on the size of the vegetable. Remove from the water using tongs and picking up the artichoke with the top facing down so not to spill hot water all over yourself, drain and serve with my favorite sauce from Walt’s Wharf in Seal Beach.

Get the recipe here, 

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