I love artichokes, and it is quite difficult to find them here in the UK... a few years ago, when staying at Bangors Organic in Cornwall, Gill served them for dinner: whole, just steamed (or boiled?) with a butter serving - de-li-cio-us! So, before leaving, I was eager to ask for some to take away, I mean, we were ready to buy some! When we went back more recently, Neil recognised us as the people who asked for the artichokes - he said he was surprised by the request at the time! I like to think that that episode might have contributed to spark off the idea to open an organic farmers' market at their place, The Big Green Shed, which they have inaugurated this month.
Fast forward to now, here are my artichokes, just back from the plot: don't they look appetizing?
If that was a new veg for me, I'd feel intimidated how to approach it... how do you pick, clean and eat? Any safety concerns?
I was like that with gooseberries when I first saw them... now I love them, thorns and all! I was not yet entirely comfortable with artichoke in the field, either: when are they ready to pick? Now I know: the leaves need to be starting to come apart.
For those that have never cooked with artichokes, I have asked Gianfranco to take some pictures of me cleaning them: nobody should be put off such a lovely veg! They are fairly quick to deal with when you know how: it took me 48 mins from basket to plate, with taking pictures and all. Pictures from all steps are on Flickr, I copy here the essential ones to keep it shorter.
First thing to know, is that artichokes oxidise and go unappealingly brown as soon as cut, unless kept in acidic conditions, which in my family we do by washing and keeping in water in which lemon has been squeezed.
Second thing to know if you do not want to be put off from ever eating artichokes again is: the tasty bit is the heart, all the rest is basically a way for the plant to discourage pests eating it (humans as well) you have to be absolutely ruthless with what you take away - everything that feels like cutting into cardboard, anything spiny and the choke need to go.
Half the heart and then quarter it.
Ready for eating!
I love them raw, sliced with salt, extravergin olive oil and lemon. Also delicious sliced and deep fried in a batter of egg, dusting of flour, lightly salted: OH granny's Easter speciality.
My aunty, more refinedly, scoops them out with a spoon to make puree.
How will you cook them?