an anecdote about an artichoke

“After all the trouble you go to, you get about as much actual food out of eating an artichoke as you would from licking 30 or 40 postage stamps.”

Miss Piggy

I don’t know about you, but I have been thinking about buying an artichoke for a long time.  They look really nice and they taste very good when someone else makes spinach and artichoke dip (or maybe that is all the butter and cheese).  However, I had never really gotten around to actually purchasing and consuming one.  It was more of an abstract idea that only seemed like a good one when I was standing in the gardening store looking at artichoke bulbs or when someone else cooked one and I would think to myself, “Wow, that looks really good.  I should make that.” and proceed to immediately forget my noble intentions. That is until yesterday when I saw these green beauties up for sale at the market in Neukölln.  2 pieces for €1.50.  This seemed acceptable.  I was ready for a challenge, especially since I have been in a cooking “rut” the past few weeks.  A globe shaped cure for my food funk.  Super.

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Well, I got them home and realized that I have absolutely no idea what to do with these.  Which part was I supposed to eat?  Can I eat it raw?  Can they be….grilled?  Well, as it turns about preparing an artichoke is kind of hard work.  Sort of like preparing a whole butternut squash, but butternut is easier to eat.

1.  The first step is cutting the stem off and rinsing thoroughly with cold water (which is recommended when consuming any vegetable or fruit).

2.  Then the tips of the petals have to be cut off.  I used scissors – there are a lot of petals and it would have been quite difficult using a knife.

3.  Next, the top of the artichoke should be cut off.  The artichoke can then be cooked.

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4.  Cooking the artichoke was the easy part.  I covered it in about 3 inches of water, added 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, lemon juice (from half a lemon), leftover onion and salt (other sites say that adding a bay leaf is also quite tasty).  Then I boiled it for about 25 minutes until the petals easily detached from the body of the fruit before removing it from the water and turning it upside in order to drain the water.  I cannot say that it is the most attractive looking vegetable when cooked.  I think boiling it for about 20 minutes and then grilling it for about 5 minutes would have been better, at least from an aesthetic point of view.

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5.  It should be noted that the entire petal is not edible.  One must use their teeth to scrape the tasty, pulpy soft portion (which means artichokes may not be for you if you have sensitive teeth).  The skin of the petal is then discarded.  After eating all the petals, which are said to be good dipped in butter or mayonnaise (I do not know, I thought they had enough flavor from the cooking process and a bit of salt), one is left with the body of the artichoke. This is where the heart is (what usually comes in a jar or can).

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6.  Before proceeding to eat the heart, the choke has to be removed as it is NOT edible.  This is accomplished by scooping out the fuzzy/fibrous part with a knife or spoon.  The heart itself is completely edible and can be consumed alone or added to a salad or sandwich.  I personally like them in grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato and avocado.

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The verdict Artichokes are very healthy.  They contain quite a bit of Dietary Fiber (the kind that helps the digestive system stay “clean”), Folate, Manganese, Vitamins C + K, Niacin, Magnesium and Cooper.  They are also low in calories – only 64 calories in a medium-sized globe (C.a. 120 grams), and contain only trace amounts of fat.  These are all very good things, but it was a lot of work not only to prepare the artichoke, but also to eat it.  That is not to say that I didn’t find the artichoke tasty (because I did) or that I don’t need more of the vitamins that it offers in my diet (because I do).  However, I think I will save this nutrition powerhouse for a special occasion or for when someone else prepares it or at least for when someone else can join in the experience with me.

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