How to prepare artichokes
Did you know artichokes are actually classified as a flower, not a vegetable? Artichokes are so sculptural it’s almost a shame to cook with them. I love to pick half a dozen from the garden and place them in a vase on the kitchen table.
They do represent spring in a really big way and tend to take over the garden if they are in a spot they really love.
How to prepare artichokes for cooking
- Fill a large bowl with cold water and squeeze in the juice from half a lemon or a whole lemon if working with a very large batch. You can toss the rind into the water too if you like: some flavour will be pulled out of the zest as it sits.
- Using a serrated knife, and working with one artichoke at a time, cut the top 1 inch of the artichoke and discard the prickly leaf tips.
- Cut half an inch from the bottom of the stem. It should have a white or pale-yellow centre point with a bright green burst of colour all around. If the colour looks dull, cut a little more off, but remember: the stem is edible (and some say the best part) so don’t cut away too much.
- Using your hands or a paring knife, peel or cut away the dark green, leathery outer leaves. Stop once the leaves feel more flexible and you’ve reached leaves that are medium green at the top and pale yellow at the stem end.
- Use a small spoon or melon baller to dig into the core of the artichoke and scrape away the hairy centre (this is the choke). Get it all out and discard it—this part is not edible.
- Use your paring knife or a vegetable peeler to trim away any dark green remaining on the base and to peel away the tough skin of the stem.
- Drop your trimmed artichoke, aka artichoke heart, into the acidulated water and continue with the rest of your artichokes.
This spring I’ve been simply cooking the artichokes in salted water and serving them with a delicious lemon vinaigrette. Just like my French friends do, although my favorite way to use them up is to slowly braise the artichoke hearts with a diced shoulder of spring lamb, tomato, olives and eggplant.
With a wedge of lemon, a perky salad, and a dollop of creamy polenta on the side… that’s spring fare like no other.