The Globe Artichoke (Cynara
scolymus) is a perennial, thistle-like plant, originating in southern
Europe around the Mediterranean. It grows with arching, deeply lobed,
silvery glucose-green leaves 50-80 cm long. The flowers develop in a large
head from an edible bud with numerous triangular scales; the individual
florets are purple. The edible portion of the buds consists primarily of
the fleshy lower portions of the bracts and the base, known as the
"heart"; the mass of inedible immature florets in the center of
the bud are called the "choke."
Whole Globe Artichokes are prepared for
cooking by removing all but a small portion or so of the stem, and
(optionally) cutting away about a quarter of each scale with scissors.
This removes the thorns that can interfere with handling the leaves when
eating. Then, the artichoke is boiled or steamed until tender, about 15-45
minutes. If boiling, salt can be added to the water, if desired. It may be
preferable not to cover the pot while the artichokes are boiled, so that
the acids will boil out into the air. Covered artichokes can turn brown
due to the acids and chlorophyll oxidation.
After cooking, the large leathery scales
forming a tight rosette are pulled off one by one, and their soft, inner
basal part (usually) dipped in some kind of sauce, perhaps butter and
lemon, mayonnaise or vinaigrette. The dipped soft part is then pulled off
with the teeth and all the rest of the leaf discarded. The fleshy, edible
part is found by many to be delicious, but quite sparse in proportion to
that which is discarded.
This process continues until most of the
leaves have been removed and the remaining ones are too small and delicate
to bother with eating. This point is difficult to judge and the novice
artichoke eater may wish to seek guidance by discreetly watching a
companion. Finally, a knife is used to remove the thistle or choke
(the immature florets), the whole top layer of delicate feathery growth
crowning the heart. It is this central top of the stem supporting
the rosette that is sold cut up, pickled and bottled as "artichoke
The thistle part is fibrous and
unpleasant to eat, and has a way of getting everywhere when it is cut away
from the heart. Therefore, it is wise to cut some of the edible heart away
and discard it along with the thistle to avoid making a mess. It may be
easier to remove by pushing it off the heart with a finger than cutting
Globe Artichokes can be harvested while
still small, cooked, and eaten whole. Boiled Globe Artichokes can be deep
fried in batter. Smaller artichokes can be quartered, tossed with oil, and
roasted. Immature artichokes can also be pickled or canned. Globe
Artichokes may also be used to flavor liqueur.
Artichokes have also been referred to as
a sommelier's nightmare, as consumption creates a sweet taste in the mouth
that interacts with other foods and beverages, including wine.
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