Of all the delicious spring vegetables that are in season right now, the gorgeous globe artichoke is one of my favourites. Not only do they taste amazing when cooked, I love the springy, flower-like look of them in general. When uncooked, the tightly packed, overlapping leaves on the artichoke looks like a budding flower, and then when it’s all cooked, the leaves open up and it looks like it has magically bloomed. So cute!
If you have ever heard the saying “With every rose comes its thorns”, this definitely applies to the artichoke…almost literally. The most prized part of the artichoke is the heart. When cooked, it is soft, creamy and meaty and is definitely the reward of the vegetable. But in order to get to the heart, you have to get passed the prickly leaves and spiny thistle inside of it. At the center of the artichoke, there is a thistle called the “choke”. My grandma (who is Maltese) always used to say that if you ate the “choke” you would choke. I was actually petrified of it when I was a kid and I always made her remove the choke and the heart for me. While you probably won’t actually choke if you ate it, it would definitely be very uncomfortable to swallow that part of it!
The prime time to get artichokes is from March through May. They are typically imported from California or Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Spain. I picked up these lovely artichokes from Thrifty Foods in Victoria, BC (The Root Cellar was all out), but you can get them in most grocery stores when they are in season.
Now, while you have probably gobbled down artichokes hearts before in mere seconds in salads, dips, or on pizza, preparing (and eating) a whole artichoke is quite a process- but trust me, it is definitely worth it with this recipe. First I will get to the key preparation tips:
- After washing the artichokes well, trim the stems off so the artichoke sits flat.
- Pull a few of the beaten up or discoloured leaves off the artichoke- they are really tough and not good to eat.
- Use a sharp knife to trim 1 to 2 centimeters off the top of the artichoke. This will remove some of the prickly bits and will make it much easier to stuff with the filling.
- Once you have trimmed the top of the artichoke, rub the exposed area and the stem with piece of sliced lemon. This will prevent it from oxidizing and turning brown.
No matter what, the first step to eating your cooked artichoke will be to ROLL UP YOUR SLEEVES because it’s going to get messy in here! You can’t care what you look like when you’re eating this at all (kind of like when you eat chicken wings), you just gotta get in there and enjoy it. To eat the artichoke, pull the leaves off one by one and scrape the inside of the leaf (where the meat is) with your bottom teeth. The best bites are where you can get some of the stuffing onto the leaf and scrape it off along with the artichoke meat. Ah, sooooo good! The outside leaves are quite fibrous, and you can’t really chew them, but as you work your way to the inside of the artichoke the leaves get softer and softer to a point where you can almost eat the whole leaf. Just avoid eating the prickly ends of the leaves and you will be fine!
Now, the fun part! After you have eaten your way down through all the leaves, you will arrive at the most treasured part of the artichoke: the heart. Of course, we can’t come all this way and expect getting to this special part of the artichoke to be easy…we have a bit more work to do! You will see some pale-yellow thistle bits on top of the heart and this is called the “choke”. It is definitely not desirable to eat this part, so scrape off the thistle with your fingers. Once that is out of the way, the soft fleshy heart underneath can be eaten. I like to scoop it out with a spoon, dip it in a bit of olive oil on my plate and eat it all in one go. It’s absolutely amazing and so creamy!
I am very happy to share this recipe as part of the #VancityVirtualPotluck today hosted by Piquant Marketing. I hope all the bloggers and foodies out there enjoy this delicious Maltese-inspired spring recipe as much as I do!
For the full recipe and eating instructions (these are SO important), head to my recipe page here!