Artichokes make a fantastic metaphor for so many important life lessons: the heart is what matters most; things are often more layered and complex than they seem; beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Because, after all, the artichoke is just a humble thistle, a hearty family of plants that are generally considered weeds. Thistles are spiny and strong, with the ability to flourish in hard, compacted soils. This makes edible thistles like the artichoke and cardoon quite useful in the organic farmer’s repertoire, since they can be planted in difficult soil to help aerate it over time, and make it amenable for more delicate plants.
In commercial environments like your typical grocery store, the variety generally available for purchase is the globe artichoke- the ubiquitous large artichoke we steam and eat with butter. However, at farmer’s markets you can find several true baby artichoke varieties which don’t make good large artichokes for steaming, and are meant to be eaten when young and tender. These include the baby anzio and the fiesole. Also, the globe artichoke variety can be picked while still small, and makes a delicious baby choke.
Like the fava beans we last wrote about, artichokes can be intimidating for the uninitiated cook. Here we’re going to talk specifically about baby artichokes, since big artichokes are relatively easy to throw in a steamer and eat, even with very little trimming or prep work whatsoever. So, without further ado, here’s how you should prepare the baby artichokes you were daring enough to buy at the market (or receive in your Out of the Box Collective box):
- Peel the tough outer layer of the stem off using a paring knife, working from the tip of the stem to the bulb of the artichoke.
- Snap off any tough outer leaves of the artichoke, until only tender pale yellow-green leaves remain. For very, very small chokes (the size of an in-shell walnut), you won’t need to peel many outer leaves.
- Trim 1/2″ to 1″ off the top of the artichoke bulb (the pointy ends of the leaves). Again, for very small chokes, less trimming is needed.
- Cut the artichokes in half (if desired) and soak in water with a lot of lemon until you’re ready to cook.
For a great How-To Video covering both globe and baby artichokes, check out Melissa Clark’s NYT video: