The Amazing Artichoke

Artichokes have been deemed as the underdogs of the veggie world. Although they may give an intimidating first impression with their dense layers of petals and thorns, underneath that hard exterior lies a sweet and delicious heart that will make your taste buds fall in love at first bite. Here are the steps to deconstructing the perfect artichoke:

  1. If the artichoke has small thorns at the end of its leaves, cut them off with kitchen scissors.
  2. Slice ¾-1 inch off the tip of the artichoke (not the stem).
  3. Pull off the smaller leaves toward the base of the stem.
  4. Cut off any excess stem, making sure to leave about 1 inch on the artichoke.
  5. Rinse your artichoke in cold water.
  6. Steam for 25-45 minutes, depending on the size of your artichoke.

Now that you have your basic artichoke prepared, it’s time to eat! Here are a few ways to incorporate this wholesome veggie intro your everyday meals:

  • Take off one leaf at a time, dip in your favorite sauce, and scrape off the fleshy base with your teeth. A healthy alternative to the traditional butter sauce is a combination of Greek yogurt, lemon juice, dill, salt, and pepper.
  • Simply grill with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  • Add the hearts to a Mediterranean salad for added flavor.
  • Toss into pastas, gratins, and casseroles.
  • Create a Mediterranean sandwich by layering hummus, artichoke hearts, red peppers, onions, and cucumbers on a whole-wheat bun.
  • Mix whole-wheat bread crumbs, herbs, garlic, and a bit of olive oil. Separate the leave of the artichoke and put the mixture between the leaves then place in a pan filled with an inch of water. Cook in oven on 175 degrees for about an hour.
  • Sauté the hearts in olive oil, garlic, and fresh herbs to create a flavorful pasta sauce or topping for chicken breast.
  • Create a simple artichoke and red pepper frittata.
  • Use as a pizza toping with black olives, peppers, onions, and feta cheese. Give Amy’s roasted vegetable pizza a try.

Can’t get enough of artichoke? Here are some fun facts about your favorite vegetable:

  • The artichoke’s best growing season is spring-summer-fall. When buying a fresh artichoke, check for an even green color with tight leaves. Squeeze the artichoke- if you hear it squeak, you’ve picked a winner
  • The artichoke is technically a flower bud that has not yet bloomed.
  • California produces 100% of the United States artichoke crop, with Castroville, California, being called the “Artichoke Center of the World.” Castroville hosts an artichoke festival each May with artichoke cooking demos, tours of artichoke farms, artichoke-themed art, an artichoke parade, and artichokes prepared in every way possible.
  • One artichoke plant can produce more than 20 artichokes per year.
  • Artichokes are one of the oldest foods known to humans. It is said that the Greek God Zeus turned his object of affection into a thistle after being rejected.
  • The ancient Greeks used artichokes as aphrodisiacs, breath fresheners, diuretics, and even deodorant.
  • Americans are divided on the artichoke’s most popular partner. Eastern states prefer to dip the leaves in butter while western states opt for mayonnaise or aioli.

Danielle DiCristofano is a sophomore at the University of Dayton majoring in dietetics. She plans to become a registered dietitian and work for a health magazine.

Photo Credit: Nicole Hayashi

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