How to Eat an Artichoke

What part of the artichoke can you eat?  Learn what parts are edible and not, what artichokes actually are, and how to buy and store them. You’ll also learn how to prepare them for cooking.

Artichokes are one of those foods that hardly seem worth the effort. The best part – the heart – is buried within thorny, armor-like petals and situated beneath a hairy clump of fuzz referred to as the choke. It’s so much work and so fuzzy; eating one is like losing my virginity all over again.

And like my virginity…worth it!

What is an Artichoke?

So what is an artichoke, anyway? Well, it’s an immature flower bud of a thistle that is eaten as, and classified as, a vegetable. The bud is simply harvested before it blossoms.

Artichokes are thought to be one of the world’s oldest foods and virtually all artichokes grown in the U.S. come from California, like pretty much everything in America. We are an agricultural juggernaut.

If you have never seen one bloom, they are gorgeous. They open up into these bright radiant purple blossoms about 6-inches across. Think purple sunflower.

Once they bloom, they are no longer good to eat.

How to Eat an Artichoke

Artichokes are not an easy vegetable to prepare and require a bit of work to get to the tasty fun part (insert virginity joke here). The outer leaves, called bracts, are tough and have a thorn on the tip. However, the base of those leaves is edible. Then there is the veggie’s beard: the choke. A hairy center that sits on top of the heart, and under the heart is the stem. The heart being the meatiest part.

How to Prep an Artichoke

One way to enjoy artichokes is to trim away most of the difficult parts and just leave the heart. It’s very similar to dating. They oxidize quickly so you might want some lemon water nearby.

Trim off about ½ inch from the top of the veggie and then cut off the stem, so it sits upright. Remove any tough leaves around the base. Using kitchen shears, trim off any remaining thorny tips. Separate the leaves and then scoop out the furry choke.
You are just front-loading the effort.

How to Eat a Whole Artichoke

Another option is to prepare the artichoke whole. This way, you do all the work when eating it. Either way, you better work. For eating one whole, you can steam it, simmer it, use the microwave, or wrap em in foil and bake em.
The key is moist heat.

If you are steaming them, microwaving them, or baking them, still remove the stem so they stand upright for an even cook. The stem is edible too, so don’t toss’ em out. Just peel them to get to the tender center. The stem is as tasty as the heart, so worth it.

How to Steam Artichokes

  1. Trim off the stem.
  2. Trim a ½ inch off the top.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.
  4. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  5. Steam using a steamer basket for 20 minutes.
  6. To test for doneness, piercing the bottom with a sharp knife should be easy.

When properly cooked, the petals easily pull off. Now, don’t eat the whole leaf though. Just the slightly meaty edge near the base of the leaves is edible. Basically where it detached from the body of the artichoke.

Serve them up with a dipping sauce like melted butter, Hollandaise, or even mayonnaise.

As you get closer to the center, the leaves will get more and more tender. When you reach the hairy center, do not eat that either! It can literally choke you. Remove all that fuzz and what remains is the heart. The part you worked so hard for!

How to Buy Artichokes

Choose fresh artichokes that are heavy for their size with a stem that is a few inches long, otherwise the heart could be dried out. The leaves should be tightly packed and a healthy green color. Some browning is ok. Even a little whiteness is ok.

How to Store Artichokes

Trim the end of the stem. Stand artichokes in a shallow container of water such that only the stem is covered. Place in the fridge. You can also just sprinkle the artichoke stems with water to keep them hydrated and keep them in a closed bag in the fridge. Either way, they should be enjoyed in 2-3 days.