Amazing Artichokes

Steamed Artichokes

Steamed artichokes are simple and delicious.  However, many people steer away from these tasty flowers because they simply don’t know how to prepare them.  This vegetable has been eaten for thousands of years but went into obscurity after the Roman Empire fell.  Adults and kids have been pulling the leaves off the artichoke for thousands of years to get to the meaty heart.  Luckily, this vegetable has been steamed, boiled, chopped, diced, pickled and sautéed its way back into the hearts of millions.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the artichoke was forgotten due to the loss of trade routes.  Finally Catherine Medici brought the artichoke from Italy to France where it became an overnight success.  The Medici family has been credited for many things from the Renaissance and now the rescue of the artichoke.  Ancient doctors would prescribe that their patients eat artichokes for a variety of physical ailments including  male libido enhancement.  Perhaps all of the male libido cures today are merely essences of artichoke?

While preparing an artichoke keep in mind it is the flower of a thistle.  This is why the leaves have sharp needle like points that hurt if they poke you.   To prepare an artichoke simply get a large bowl of cold water and squeeze some fresh lemon juice into it.  Set the lemon water aside and take a sharp knife and chop about an inch off the top of the artichoke.  Pull away any small leaves around the base and use a knife to trim up the stem. I like to take a pair of kitchen shears and trim up the remaining leaves.  This trimming will remove and thistle like points.

When you have trimmed/prepared the artichoke take both hands and gently spread open the top of the vegetable.  Reach into the vegetable and pull off the small yellow leaves that cover the heart of the artichoke.  This “leaf packet” should come out all as one piece.  Beneath this “leaf packet” is the furry covering of the heart.  To remove the furry heart covering, simply scrap it away with a spoon or melon baller. Rinse the artichoke off and place it in the lemon water.  Artichokes hearts will start to turn brown once they are exposed to the air and the lemon water will help prevent this.

Once you have prepared the artichoke and cleaned out the heart you can cook it using a variety of methods.  Boiling or steaming are two preferred methods.  If you like to stuff your artichokes, be creative with the stuffing.  Just make sure the stuffing is fully cooked before adding it to the center.  Artichokes only take about 20 minutes to cook which may not be enough time to fully cook a stuffing.  Once the artichoke is cooked, simply remove the leaves and scrape off the meaty portion of the leave with your teeth.  Create a fun dip for the leaves to add variety and flavor.  Once you get to the heart, savor every moment of your well earned prize.

Artichokes are an amazing vegetable prized by the Roman Empire and than revived by Catherine de Medici in the 15th century.  The artichoke is here to stay bringing with it all of the folklore and beauty that surrounds it.  Perhaps the next time you need a boost to your libido, reach for the almighty artichoke and savor the delicate flavors of the culinary treasure.


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