Whether you're a CSA devotee, a farmers' market weekender or consider ketchup a veg, we'll bring you fresh inspiration for how to prepare our local produce. This week's harvest: Artichokes
It's artichoke season! Wahoo! They've been ready for a few weeks but this these gigantic thistles are only in season for about a month or two so run out to the markets this weekend and load up. Start thinking up all the devilish ways you will pluck through the leaves just to celebrate the prized tender heart. It takes a bit of work to get there, but it's so worth it.
When are artichokes in season? About the end of April through June.
Can I grow artichokes in my backyard? Sure, but they are huuuuuge plants. They can grow to about 7 feet tall and they take up quite a bit of space. So, if space isn't an issue for you and you can give it a lot of sun. Have at it. Here's a link to help you get started. Artichokes are perennials, so they'll provide for you year after year.
Selecting, cleaning and storage tips: Choose green thick stemmed artichokes that aren't discolored up by the leaves. The stems will be discolored where they were cut off the plant. Store them loosely covered in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. Don't keep them there too long. They want to be eaten soon after harvest.
Eating Artichokes: It's hard to describe what fresh artichokes taste like. The canned variety doesn't do them justice. The heart is a meaty veg with a slight tang up front and sweet hint at the end. Before getting to the heart, you get to dip the leaves and scrape the meat off the leaves using your front (top or bottom) teeth. It's an event all my itself. It's a little like the crab legs of the vegetable world.
You can drink your artichokes too. There's tea and even a liquour called Cynar made from artichokes that's regularly mixed with orange juice. Has anyone tried this?
I prefer to eat my artichokes. These are my favorite ways to eat them. My mouth is watering as I write. Here's a handy video for how to prepare the artichoke. Growing up, we didn't do one darned thing other than steam them whole and as-is in seasoned water. I knew even as little kid not to get stabbed by the thorns at the tip of the leaves. Then after they were cooked, we'd eat all the leaves one by one and dip them in mayo (easy aioli). Then it was my job to scoop the choke out with a spoon (being careful not to scoop out any of the heart) and quarter the heart so we each had a piece. It was the best when we'd cook more than one artichoke for dinner. The best.
Steamed Artichoke This recipe is most similar to how I always ate it as a kid
Pressure Cooker Artichokes Artichokes take a long time. I just did this for the first time recently and it was a wonder I haven't done this before.
Aioli Best dip for artichokes
Jennifer Woods is a local food advocate with over 10 years working in the AZ food industry, and currently works for Crooked Sky Farms, a CSA produce farm based in South Phoenix.