Glorious Globe Artichoke (Cynara Cardunculus Var. Scolymus)

 

Here I am tackling my first ever globe artichoke. Knowing it has herbal uses it was time to give it a go.

They are best eaten from June to November but baby artichokes can be eaten in May.  Baby artichokes are tiny and tender at this stage and have not developed their choke yet, which otherwise needs removing. The choke is a crown of hairy fibres and sits right above the artichoke’s heart.

Some confuse the globe artichoke with the Jerusalem artichoke because of the artichoke name. In fact the globe artichoke is an unopened flower bud of the thistle family. Whereas the Jerusalem artichoke is actually from the same family as the sunflower and you eat their tubers. Looking at the Jerusalem artichoke tubers they remind me of root ginger in appearance.

Not only do globe artichoke’s taste great but eating them may also support the body.

 

How Globe Artichokes Support the Body

Eating globe artichokes may help to support the body with regards to;

  • Arthritic disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Gout
  • Hepatitis
  • Jaundice
  • Liver and gall bladder problems
  • Assisting the digestion of fats because the plant is bitter and stimulates digestive secretions such as bile.
  • Lowering blood cholesterol levels
  • Nurturing convalescence

Preparing an Artichoke

It feels a little daunting when you first look at an artichoke and think “how on earth do I cook this?” Firstly I must warn you to be careful while preparing because those leave tips are very prickly. I can’t believe how many times I uttered “ouch” during my first attempt.

After looking at different ideas I prepare mine like this;

  1. Wash the artichoke to remove any dirt which may be hiding in between the leaves.
  2. Remove the bottom few leaves near the stalk.
  3. Cut off the top third of the artichoke and throw it away. I use a serrated knife because this makes the process much easier.
  4. Using a pair of scissors cut off the top of the remaining leaves because this removes their prickly parts.
  5. Rub the cut edges with a slice of lemon to stop them turning brown.
  6. Cut the stem only leaving a half an inch and remove the outer layer of the remaining stalk with a knife.
  7. Bring two inches of water to a boil in a pan and then add the artichoke with the stem pointing upwards.
  8. Turn the heat down low and simmer for 35-40 minutes.
  9.  Remove the artichoke carefully using kitchen tweezers because its very hot.

 

Eating an Artichoke

Once cooked the outer leaves can be eaten by dipping their fleshy ends into a sauce or dip. Throw away the stringy lower leaves shown on the left side of the above picture. Then all you eat is the tiny whitish part of the leaves from where they connect to its base. This is done by dipping the bottom of the leaf in the dip of your choice then dragging off the white fleshy part with your lower teeth. It is only a tiny morsel but I think a tasty one.

Making a Dairy Free Garlic Sauce

Dips can be simple butter garlic ones and I like to dip them in humus too. My personal favourite is red pepper humus.

I also make a dairy free dip because I’m dairy intolerant. I do this by;

  1. Melting a tablespoon of dairy free spread in a small microwavable bowl for thirty seconds. I like to use Flora Dairy Free or Pure dairy free enriched with olive oil. If using the Flora Dairy Free I also add a splash of extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Add a grated clove of garlic.
  3. Add a teaspoonful of chopped fresh chives, but dry will do it you don’t have fresh.
  4. Stir and dip away!

Very tasty!

Getting at the Artichoke Heart

Once all the dipping leaves have gone I remove the remaining leaves which don’t have the whitish fleshy ends. I throw these away and they  look like this;

After removing these leaves I’m left with a very hairy centre and this looks like this;

The hairy part, also known as the choke, is cut away to get to the heart and people say that this is the tastiest part. I understand why artichoke hearts are so expensive to buy now because reaching them does take time and effort.

Reaching the heart I think it has a meaty look and texture. I also dipped the heart into the dips but personally I prefer dipping the leaves. Its just feels much more fun!

The heart can also be used fresh in salads and I sometimes buy artichoke hearts from the supermarket for this very purpose.

My Conclusion

Its surprising how little of the artichoke can actually be eaten and how much is  thrown away. This is because you can only eat the heart and the tender ends of the leaves where they attach themselves to the artichoke.

Despite this I will definitely be eating them again because they taste great and are worth the effort. Its also a fantastic idea for parties where guests pull off their own leaves and dip them into the sauce of their choice.

 

Finally

Be aware that you never know if you’re intolerant to something new until you try it for the first time. Therefore only try a tiny amount first and wait a day or two to check that there is no adverse reaction. 

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are taking any medications, always check with your doctor to ensure that using any of these suggestions don’t contradict them.

 

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