Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How To Cook (and Eat) an Artichoke: An Easy Lesson with Pictures

When I first tried artichoke (hearts) long long ago, I was unimpressed. They came from a jar and were placed on a salad. I found them rather oily and flavorless. And so, the decades flew by without me ever trying another one until I was in my late 30's. I was blogging and losing weight and trying new things, so I was determined to learn how to cook an artichoke myself. At least then I could say I'd tried it, right?

I had to look in a few cookbooks to figure out what to do with this big pokey thing, but once I figured it out, it was easy! Here's your lesson, in just a few easy steps: how to cook and eat an artichoke.

First, go to the grocery store and buy a nice, big, firm, heavy artichoke. It looks like this:


Rinse it under cold running water and shake off the excess. Use a kitchen knife to cut off the stem. You can save and steam it along with your artichoke; it is very good peeled. Mine didn't have a long stem so I tossed it. Then use your knife to cut off about an inch off the top. Take some scissors or kitchen shears and cut off the tip of each leaf. They are kind of pointy on the end, so this will keep you from getting poked while you cook and eat it. Plus it just looks prettier trimmed.


Now put a few inches of water in the bottom of a big pot and bring it to a boil. You can add things to the water to flavor the artichoke, like lemon, herbs, a bay leaf, or garlic, but I usually don't bother. If you have a steamer basket, use it. You can also set a metal colander over the pot instead. Put the artichoke in the basket or colander and cover it loosely with a lid or aluminum foil. Steam it for about 30 minutes. Smaller artichokes might take 20-25 minutes while giant ones might take 40. You can tell it is done by turning it over and poking the center base with a fork; it should be tender, and the leaves should pull off very easily without effort. Undercooked artichoke is hard and not good.


Remove the steamed artichoke to a plate and cool slightly so you don't burn your fingers eating it. Enjoying an artichoke is a ritual and takes time, but is so relaxing and enjoyable to me. If you are working on eating slowly, an artichoke is your best friend.

Once it is cool enough to handle, turn it over and start peeling off the leaves one at a time. There will be a little lump of tender flesh at the base of each leaf, see?


You scrape that flesh off with your teeth. Do not eat the leaves! Yuck! They are tough and fibrous. Just place each leaf between your front teeth, bite down, and pull the leaf out. What you scrape off is the tender flesh.

At first, you will wonder why you bothered. The outer, bottom leaves are the least tasty with the least amount of edible flesh to scrape off. But as you work your way through the artichoke, the leaves get more and more tender, with more yummy flesh to eat. See the leaf with the flesh scraped off?


Keep going. Oh, if you like, you can dip the leaves into a sauce or melted butter. There are recipes online for mayonnaise-based artichoke dipping sauces, but I just like to melt a little butter or "light" butter and/or have my salt shaker handy. So good. Just keep on pulling off leaves and eating...


The leaves get smaller and more tender until you can just bite off the very base of the small leaves. Then all of a sudden you have this:


Do not eat the fuzz! Yuck! Gross! That is called the "choke" and believe me, if you try to eat it you will know why. Instead, now is a good time to empty all those leaves off your plate, and use a spoon or small knife to scrape out all the fuzz, leaving behind the crown jewel of artichokes: the heart.


Doesn't look like much, but this is what you worked for! This is the best part. Slice it up and eat it with a fork, dipping it in butter if you like. It is so delicious and tender and to me tastes *nothing* like those marinated ones in a jar. This is a real, yummy vegetable, slightly reminiscent of tender, fresh sweet corn. It has a flavor all its own. You really have to try it.

One large artichoke (edible parts) has only 60 calories and gives you 4 g protein, 13 g carbs, 6 g fiber, no fat, 20% RDA of vitamin C, 8% RDA of iron, and 6% RDA of calcium. It is very much worth the effort and feels like a special indulgence every time I have one. If you haven't tried one, I hope this inspires you. Eat your veggies!

18 comments:

Kelly said...

You made me wish I liked artichokes! Lyn I have a question and I figure you should know because you've been there doing that. I started Medifast at first of the year, had to quit, the ex has been seriously hurt and has not paid child support in 2 months. So Medifast is something I want to do but can't afford. I like the 2 to 3 hour mind set, didn't get real hungry. Long story short, got blood work back today and now have "boderline" high cholesterol and was told to
continue to try and lose weight but must have low fat and low carb and of course exercise. I know that you have been on South Beach, the diet suggested to me by the doc, so here is the question finally can the two be somehow combined you think? Eating south beach every two hours or so? Going to look

Another Deb said...

Thank you so much for this -- always wanted to try one and never have because I didn't know how! Brussels sprouts are my latest vegetable love, so this will be two new veggies in one winter for me! Yikes, how unlike me :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm getting ready to start a Whole30 and I've been looking for some new veggies to try while I'm doing it. Now I'm super excited to try artichoke! Thanks for de-mystifying it for me. :)
~Jaclyn

Lyn said...

Kelly~

Eating every 2-3 hours does tend to help stabilize blood sugar. I think doing South Beach on a schedule with some guidelines for the snacks is a good idea. My eating schedule is, loosely, 8am/noon/6pm for meals, and 10am/3pm/8:30pm for snacks. A snack, for me, is about 100 calories, low in carbs, high in protein with some fat. So 100 calories of nuts or broccoli and hummus or berries and Greek yogurt are good ideas. Let me know what you end up doing!

Becca said...

Thank you Lyn!! I've never cooked artichokes...but I'm going to buy some the next time I go shopping. :)

Jordan said...

I LOVE artichokes! I cook them in the microwave. Put 1/3-1/2 cup of water in the bottom of a bowl. I use a soup bowl, one that's deeper than it is wide, and the size where the choke fits it well. Put the artichoke in the bowl upside down, so the stem is up (I cut off the stem also). Cover with wax paper and microwave for 3-5 minutes. You know it's done when the flesh is soft enough to pull off with your teeth. Nothing bad happens if you cook it too long. It's easier to eat, that's all.

Mrs Swan said...

Thank you sooo much! I have always wondered *exactly how to eat one of these.

als said...

Lovelovelove artichokes!! Good for you for giving them another try! :D

Diandra said...

May have to try them again, after all. Had canned artichokes last year for the first time, and they were yuck! There must still be a can of them in the pantry somewhere...

PamL said...

My husband's family introduced me to artichokes. They pour melted butter all over it before starting to eat it. I'll have to try it plain with salt....sounds yummy! I always make my husband clean off the "choke" part. You made it look easy though! :)

Jaki (Slim Down U) said...

I've never had an artichoke and had no idea how to eat or cook them. Great post! :)

Xani said...

I just want to say I love artichokes and I love this post! Hooray for celebrating and enjoying healthy REAL foods! :)

p.s. a little mayo thinned with lemon juice is my favorite artichoke dipping sauce.

erin said...

Lyn! I have looked for illustrated instructions online several times to prepare artichokes and always ended up with a mess of leaves and nothing to eat. I'm vegan and have always wanted to try fresh artichoke. This is the most clear, straightforward guide I've ever seen. Thank you!

Jamie Mckay said...

I'm going to try this!

Vickie said...

I put mine up side down in the pan to cook. I am not sure WHY I was taught to do it this way, and it might not make a difference, but I thought I would mention it.

Anonymous said...

Wow, an interesting, but maybe complicated, way of eating an artichoke! I've never seen them eaten like that.
I live in Italy where artichokes are eaten everywhere and by everyone and they get completely cleanded BEFORE cooking them so that you can eat all of them once they're cooked. You take out the "fuzz" and all the hard and darker outer leaves. You might want to use gloves since artichokes can stain your hands (when they're raw). If you clean more of them before cookign them you can put them into a bowl with lemon and water so that they don't darken. They are often cooked with a lot of oil and some water (delicious!) You can also slice them and cook with just a little bit oil, garlic and water (+white wine) and eat them in an omelette, with pasta, make a risotto etc.

Lyn said...

Anonymous~

I would love to try that. I think you have a different kind/cultivar of artichokes there though; in the US we mainly have Globe artichokes.

jean riley said...

Enjoyed your take on how to prepare and eat an artichoke . I was fortunate in having learned this when I was only 17 years old and have enjoyed thm all my life so far- I will be 90 in a month! Myadvice for the lady who needs to lose weight forget South Beach et al--they do not work. Try going vegan and the pounds will literally float off- and you can avoid cancer, reduce diabetes and eliminate heart disease- read The China Study and live a really healthful life! I am a survivor of 4th stage malignant melanoma, I know what I am talking about- we are what we eat remember- there are many foods available without meat-dairy or eggs. just take extra B12and you will get your figure back- God gave us a good diet-read Gen.1:29- we just have not been listening and paying a terrible price for centuries with illness and disease! e-mail me at jlrmedgrp@aol.com for more help if interested
God bless you- you won't be sorry!

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