Thistle Blow your Mind: Artichokes!

I realized something pretty major the other day: I have never eaten an artichoke before. Yeah, I know. How is that even possible? Not sure. This occurred to me, in fact, while I was driving through a town called Castroville – the self-proclaimed “artichoke capital of the world” in central California. Hmm…there sure were lots of artichokes in those fields and I had no idea how any of them tasted, which freaked me out a little.
Then, a few days later, I was up north in another part of the state where, lo and behold, in a friend’s backyard garden grew a number of the intimidating-looking plants that had never graced my palette. It was a sign. Time to do something about that.

Artichokes are a member of the thistle family (in case you didn’t pick that up from my awesome post title), and the part that we eat is actually the immature flower bud that would otherwise grow into a bright purple blossom.
Although most of us can buy artichokes all year round in a grocery store, we are actually on the opposite side of their ideal season, which is March through May. I guess having never tasted an artichoke before I am equally oblivious to their life cycle. Oops. And that I am in the state that can grow a lot of things all year round no matter what the season is, so can you really blame me? No. I’m just going for it.
So began my artichoke adventure. I picked up some local beauties at the store, figured out how to prepare and cook them (super easy), but as I was looking at many of the suggestions online and in cookbooks on how to eat them – with melted butter, mayonnaise, or hollandaise sauce – I knew that some radical differences were in store for my vegetables. More on that later.

It’s all news to me: artichokes are good for you!
Okay, so we’ve already identified that I am way out of the artichoke loop, fine. How was I supposed to know how full of fiber these things are? Or how they are loaded with antioxidants? Or that they are naturally very low in calories and virtually fat free? Did you know this? Why didn’t you tell me?
I’ve also learned that artichokes are a good source of vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, folate, and iron. And to top it all off, they are particularly supportive of liver health due to their cynarin content.
Again: why didn’t anyone tell me?!

I know I am not the only one out there that is jumping on the artichoke wagon, so here is some easy information on how to prepare these totally delicious treats.
Directions:
1. First, wash the artichoke thoroughly. Hold the artichoke under cold running water. Rinse in between the leaves without pulling on them. Turn the artichoke upside down (stem side up) and give a good shake. Dry the artichoke with a clean towel.
2. Using a large knife, cut off the top 1 1/2″ to 2″ of the artichoke. This is where the leaves are most tightly bunched.
3. Using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut off the sharp points from the leaves.
4. Cut off the stem flush with the base.
5. Place the artichoke in a steamer basket over boiling water. Steam for 25-45 minutes until one of the leaves can be removed easily.
Here are some pictures.

So yeah, lots of gloppy dips out there to totally negate the low-fat, low-calorie tasty-ness that attract people to artichokes in the first place. My version is super flavourful, but uses just a hint of olive oil and pungent ingredients to make your mouth sing.
This dip is somewhat similar to my Green Giant Cilantro Pesto, except for the parsley content and the real kick from the jalapeno. I would suggest making a double batch if you’re serving a crowd, or you want leftover for a sandwich spread (holy, delicious).

Cilantro Parsley Dipping Sauce
Ingredients:
1 ½ cups cilantro
½ cup parsley
juice and zest of 2 limes
4 Tbsp. cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
pinch of sea salt
2-3 cloves garlic
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 tsp. raw honey

Directions:
1. Wash and dry herbs well.
2. Roughly chop herbs, garlic, and jalapeno, then put them in a blender with the remaining ingredients.
3. Pour into a serving dish and enjoy.

I have come to two conclusions after all my artichoke exploits:
#1 – Artichokes are delicious. I probably should have mentioned that before. I plan on eating them much more often than never.
#2 – No matter how much I think I know about food, there is always something new to learn about and discover. The world is so exciting!

That sounded like an after school special. Sorry. You get the point. Sheesh.

Copyright 2012 My New Roots at mynewroots.blogspot.com

6 comments

  1. Julie

    My husband and I just ate the most delicious artichoke and I just couldn’t get over how much I loved it! The last time I had had one was about 3rd grade when someone brought one in as show and tell. Goes to show this is no ordinary thistle!

  2. Michelle

    Hello and thank you for such an inspiring and beautiful blog! Just wanted to add to your artichoke repertoire. Here in California artichokes are so common that we do try different ways of eating them, besides the usual mayo dip. Some suggestions are hummus, vinaigrette, plain old balsamic vinegar, romesco sauce, bean puree, salsa…I think you get the picture! Also, they are fabulous grilled. I get pretty full from just eating the leaves, so I save the hearts for a different meal. You can make a sort of tapenade with them, or put them in a tart or sandwich. And that is just a couple of suggestions. Artichokes are really quite versatile and I am so happy you are enjoying them!

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