The Art of Artichokes

Writing about artichokes – particularly how to eat them – is very difficult without sexual undertones, so please let this serve as a warning that this blog entry is PG13, perhaps R, depending on where your mind wanders.

I posted this several years ago on my former blog, ZenBagLady, but after buying four lovely artichokes at Trader Joe’s yesterday, I decided to republish it because I really, really love artichokes. And I don’t mean that in any other way other than I really do love artichokes. They’re probably my favorite veggie. (I say probably because I don’t want to offend broccoli, which comes in a close second.)

Artichokes are a very sensuous vegetable, and best eaten by candlelight. My husband introduced me to them 14 years ago, and when they’re in season, we eat them a few times a week. The process of eating them is like a spiritual ritual because they’re way more than a vegetable. Artichokes are an experience like no other food.

The key is buying the right artichoke. You don’t want limp, withered leaves. Look for tight, firm globes. That’s a good indicator that there’s a lot of meat at the bottom of the leaves and in the heart.

Steam or simmer them, but be careful not to let the hearts turn to mush. (Click here for a pictorial of how to prepare artichokes from Simply Recipes.) The centers should be firm yet easily penetrated with a knife. Melt some butter in a bowl and pour balsamic vinegar in another. Set the artichokes and dips on the table, along with lots of napkins, and a fork and a knife and a plate.

Peel back an outer leaf. Dip the bottom in the butter and then the vinegar, then scrape it between your teeth. Repeat this process layer after layer after layer. There won’t be much meat on the outer leaves, but good things come to those who wait. Artichokes are a lesson in faith and patience. Faith that the heart is there under all the leaves and patience in knowing that getting to the heart is part of the fun.

As the leaves come off and your teeth scrape away each luscious layer, you’ll find the sweet spot – the heart, the place you’ll pledge your undying love for this awesome vegetable.

But like some medieval video game, before you can eat the heart, you must get past the choke – that fuzzy, dangerous layer. It’s astringent in the mouth and will stick in your throat like cat fur. Ingest it and I guarantee it will interrupt your artichoke experience. However, if you trim the choke just right by shaving it clean with your butter knife (sorry, there was no other way to word that), you’ll be rewarded with a heart so opulent and true it’ll make you weep.

Cut the heart into four or more pieces and dip each in the butter and then the vinegar. Chew slowly. Shut your eyes, even. Enjoy each succulent taste. Don’t rush it. Slow is best (remember patience).

And that, my friends, is how you eat an artichoke. (Just don’t smoke a cigarette after eating one, although you might feel like it…just sayin’.)

13 thoughts on “The Art of Artichokes

  1. Okay, this sentence made me laugh – “Look for tight, firm globes.”

    I can only imagine the search engine traffic that will be coming your way LOL!

  2. I was surprised to see an article on artichokes by an east coast girl. almost anybody I have met from outside of California doesn't 'get' artichokes. I would say that you definitely 'get' them. But I have to say I have never tried the balsamic vinegar. Sounds good. I'll be stopping at Trader Joe's to get some artichokes after work tomorrow!

  3. Cammy, try an artichoke anyway 🙂

    Lori, the number of hits on my blog soared yesterday and today. I don't wanna know what they were searching. Oh my.

    Debby, my husband is from Houston and he grew up on artichokes. So they started south and migrated north 🙂

  4. Lynn,

    Have you ever figured a way to eat them without the butter part? I like them (and I love the hearts), but I can't help but think I'd rather put the butter calories toward a brownie?

  5. Thanks for the heads up, anonymous. Yet another idiotic diet site using my photo.

    aninvisiblegirl, the butter I use is light and it's minimal. I mostly use balsamic vinegar. The total calories in the butter might be 25-30…not even close to a brownie! LOL

  6. Aninvisiblegirl: I love them without any butter. I dip them in a mixture of orange juice and balsamic glaze, or in nothing at all. They are great on their own.

    I don't understand the concept of lite butter. Butter is a single-ingredient food, so how can you make it 'lite'? Just use less…

  7. When I was a child I saw a display of canned artichoke hearts and came to the conclusion that an artichoke was a small furry animal. I've never quite been able to get past that but your post makes me want to try.

  8. I love artichokes. I buy them when they are on sale!

    Lynn, that website that stole your pictures and called you Emily is such a fraud. They say you are from Monument, Colorado which is 2 miles from me. So Crazy. Isn't there anything you can do about it?

    It has to be frustrating for you, because I am really mad about it!!

    From: Susan in Palmer Lake, Colorado

  9. Well, one really nice thing is that they call your granddaughter, your daughter! But they are using pictures that shouldn't be used.

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