Monday, 16 February 2015

My kingdom for an Artichoke

Garden fresh Artichokes

How could I not have extolled the delights of artichokes before now? Incredibly it took the charm and delight of a dear follow blogger to pull me up and remind me of this deep and abiding love of this thistly vegetable.

Plump Artichoke
Young Artichoke Plant
I watched our seeds planted in the greatest of hopes grow into silver downy leaved monsters and then produce a bounty of spiky flower heads which are our gourmet delight. Seeing them plump up made recipes dance in my head.


From a nutritional standpoint artichokes are low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol. They are also a good source of Niacin, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate and Manganese.

Artichoke is used to stimulate the flow of bile from the liver, and this is thought to help reduce the symptoms of heartburn and alcohol “hangover.” Artichoke is also used for high cholesterol, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), kidney problems, anemia, fluid retention (edema), arthritis, bladder infections, preventing gallstones, lowering blood pressure, lowering blood sugar, to increase urine flow and assist with liver problems.

How does it work?

A perfect Artichoke

Artichoke has chemicals that can reduce nausea and vomiting, spasms, and intestinal gas. These chemicals have also been shown to lower cholesterol.

Traditional peoples have also used artichoke for treating snakebites and as a tonic or stimulant.

In foods, artichoke leaves and extracts are used to flavor beverages. Cynarin and chlorogenic acid, which are chemicals found in artichoke, are sometimes used as sweeteners.


In Mythology

According to the Greek myth, the first artichoke was a beautiful young mortal woman named Cynara who lived on the Aegean island of Zinari. One day one of the twelve gods of Mount Olympus, Zeus (King of all Gods), was visiting his brother Poseidon (God of the Sea). As he laid eyes on the sensuous and very beautiful Cynara who was bathing on the shores, he noticed she was strong,confident and unaffected by the presence of the god. He so was impressed by her strength that he instantly fell in love and seduced her. Zeus decided to make Cynara a goddess so she could be closer to his home on Mount Olympus. Zeus would meet with Cynara whenever his wife, Hera (Queen of all Gods), was away.

Stunning Artichoke Blooms
However, Cynara greatly missed her family and became homesick, so occasionally sneaked back to visit the mortals. When Zeus discovered this un-goddess like behaviour, in a fit of jealous rage, he hurled her back to earth transforming her into the first unusual but striking artichoke plant. The artichoke was covered in thorns to protect its vulnerable heart, until it dried from within only to release an exquisite spiky purple blossom, a spectacular flower to match the goddess’ beauty.

Thus, the botanical name for artichoke is the female name Cynara. Artichokes were considered an aristocratic vegetable and were known in history as ‘food for the Gods’. Due to the story of the desirous god Zeus, they were also considered an aphrodisiac. Although ancient artichokes were very pretty and the flower very striking, their thorny exterior demanded that they be isolated. As a result of Zeus’ resentment, Cynara remained untouched for hundreds of years and appreciated by no one. Zeus hoped no one would attempt to search beyond the tough fibrous thorny leaves to find her sweet, sensuous heart. Contrary to his belief, humans’ curiosity and determination did attempt to risk tasting this striking, thorny vegetable only to be rewarded with it’s delicious flavour.



Artichoke leaf tea

1 large Artichoke Leaf, freshly cut
1 litre water
1 teaspoon honey (optional and to taste)

Place fresh leaves in boiling water for 5-15 minutes.
Allow it cool.
If the taste is too bitter, it can be sweetened with honey. 

May be useful to normalise cholesterol, for the relief of digestive discomfort and lowering blood sugar.

Note: it is best to consult a physician before starting any medicinal herbal treatment.

How to Cook and Eat an Artichoke

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 35 minutes

How to Cook an Artichoke
  1. If the artichokes have little thorns on the end of the leaves, take a kitchen scissors and cut of the thorny tips of all of the leaves. This step is mostly for aesthetics as the thorns soften with cooking and pose no threat to the person eating the artichoke.
  2. Slice about 3/4 inch to an inch off the tip of the artichoke.
  3. Pull off any smaller leaves towards the base and on the stem.
  4. Cut excess stem, leaving up to an inch on the artichoke. The stems tend to be more bitter than the rest of the artichoke, but some people like to eat them. Alternatively you can cut off the stems and peel the outside layers which is more fibrous and bitter and cook the stems along with the artichokes.
  5. Rinse the artichokes in running cold water.
  6. In a large pot, put a couple inches of water, a clove of garlic, a slice of lemon, and a bay leaf (this adds wonderful flavor to the artichokes). Insert a steaming basket. Add the artichokes. Cover. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 25 to 45 minutes or until the outer leaves can easily be pulled off. Note: artichokes can also be cooked in a pressure cooker (about 15-20 minutes cooking time). Cooking time depends on how large the artichoke is, the larger, the longer it takes to cook.

How to Eat an Artichoke

Artichokes may be eaten cold or hot, but I think they are much better hot. They are served with a dip, either melted butter or mayonnaise. My favorite dip is mayo with a little bit of balsamic vinegar mixed in.
  1. Pull off outer petals, one at a time.
  2. Dip white fleshy end in melted butter or sauce. Tightly grip the other end of the petal. Place in mouth, dip side down, and pull through teeth to remove soft, pulpy, delicious portion of the petal. Discard remaining petal.
  3. Continue until all of the petals are removed.
  4. With a knife or spoon, scrape out and discard the inedible fuzzy part (called the "choke") covering the artichoke heart. The remaining bottom of the artichoke is the heart. Cut into pieces and dip into sauce to eat.

Stuffed Artichoke

Stuffing- 1:1 ratio finely grated Romano cheese to breadcrumbs. Mix with olive oil until it starts to stick together, and to the side of the bowl. Prepare artichoke, cut leaves, stem, and top. Stuff mixture into leaves. Prepare the pot with 2cm water, and a dash more olive oil. Bring to a boil then turn the temperature to the lowest setting. Place stuffed artichokes in the pot and let them steam for 2-3 hrs.

Artichoke with Garlic Mayonnaise
Home grown artichoke with home made Aioli

Cook the artichoke per the above method

3 egg yolks
150ml olive oil
1 clove of garlic minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Beat the egg yolk until turns paler. 
Add salt, pepper and garlic and beat some more. 
Slowly drizzle oil while continuing to beat the mixture until emulsified completely and thickens. 
Slowly add the juice and beat until thick and glossy.

Aioli Verdi

Artichokes filled with aioli
on a bed of aioli verdi
1/2 serve Aioli, per above
1 cup broad beans
3 sprigs mint, leaves finely shredded

Blanche the broad beans in boiling water for 2 minutes and remove and plunge into ice water.
Drain the beans well and place the beans, aioli and mint into a processor and pulse until a sauce consistency is achieved.
Serve with your prepared and cooked artichokes as well as the aioli.

Artichoke with Bacon

When there is bacon ... let there BE bacon.
Artichoke with bacon and aioli
Pan fry your bacon until crispy and scatter on your artichokes with aioli.

Artichoke with Garlic Prawns
Artichokes with garlic prawns

4 large prepared artichokes, cooked, halved and kept warm
400 gm prawns, pealed and deveined

3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
2 sprigs of dill
200gm butter

melt the butter and sweat the garlic gently until tender. Turn up the heat to a sizzle and saute the prawns and add the dill.
Serve in the prepared artichokes with all the buttery pan juices.


  1. Oh wow, I've never tried an artichoke, I will have to now, thank you so much for this!

  2. always a pleasure. Glad you liked it