Get The Scoop on Artichokes

artichokes_anatomy_productArtichokes are a powerhouse of nutrition and fiber, but more importantly, they’re flavorful and a great addition to any meal — or a light meal on their own. They have been used as a digestive aid since ancient Egyptian times. Per serving, it has more fiber than Lima beans, prunes or green peas. It’s also a storehouse of potassium, magnesium and vitamin C.

Baby Artichokes: These are not immature artichokes but simply the flowers farther down the stems. These haven’t developed the inedible chokes and so can be eaten whole once cooked.
Long-stem Artichokes: Basically, these are the flowers from the uppermost top and center of the plant, with their long stems still intact. The stems can be cut off and cooked separately (diced in a stir-fry, for example) — or they can be left on the flower. Keep in mind the stems should be peeled uing a vegetable peeler before cooking.

Buying tips for fresh Artichokes

Make sure the stems are not desiccated or cracked.
Make sure the leaves are intact, no squishy pieces in sight.

Prepping artichokes for cooking

Follow these steps:

• Rinse the artichokes.
• Trim the woody, dried-out ends of the stems.
• Peel the remaining stems with a vegetable peeler.
• Put one artichoke on its side on a cutting board and slice off the top inch or so of the flower (thereby removing the uppermost thorns).
• Use a pair of kitchen shears to cut off the thorny ends of the remaining outer leaves.
• To keep the artichokes from turning brown, rub all the cut parts of the flower with lemon juice — or throw the artichokes (one by one as they’re prepared) into a large bowl filled with water and the juice of a large lemon (plus the hull of that juiced lemon).

*The exception here is baby artichokes. Trim off the whole stem, right down to the flower. Cut only 1/4 inch off the top of the flower. Finally, break off any dark-green petals, leaving only pale- green and yellow petals exposed.

Cooking artichokes

Steamed: Set them stem-side up in a steamer basket (so the steam can get up into the down-turned leaves). Set basket over simmering water, then cover pan and steam until tender, anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the artichokes. You know they’re done when a sharp knife can pierce the stem and heart easily (like sticking a knife into a baked potato).
Boiled: Set prepared artichokes into a large pot of boiling water. Cover, reduce heat, and cook at a moderate simmer for about the same amount of time as for steaming.
Baked: Preheat oven to 425°F as you prepare artichokes. Place them in a baking dish with a tight lid. It’s best if the artichokes are as close as possible with very little space between each one. Spread petals open and season them inside with salt, pepper and/or minced herbs, garlic and bread crumbs. Bake 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the size of the artichokes.

The exception is baby artichokes. You only need to steam them for 15 minutes, boil for 15 minutes. Once prepped, baby artichokes can also be quartered and sautéed or stir-fried for 10 minutes or until tender. You may quarter them and add to stews, soups and salads.

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