Like many people, I used to be intimidated by artichokes in grocery stores and restaurants. I did not know how to select them, cook them or even eat them. It was during the Covid quarantine, when I set up zoom cooking sessions with my friends, that I became familiar with and conquered this delicious vegetable. It now has a regular place on our menu. 

Artichokes are globular, densely packed clusters of leaf-like thorny petals surrounding a heart. They originated as a wild plant called Cardoon in North Africa and, since antiquity, have been valued as food and medicine. Modern medicine is catching up with folklore and now promotes the compound Silymarin, which promotes liver health. This prickly thistle plant also contains the probiotic inulin, which can fight E. coli in our gut. It is a great source of fiber; one middle-sized artichoke contains as much fiber as two bowls of bran cereal. 

When selecting artichokes, select the ones that feel heavy and hard, have minimally bruised leaves, and have a nice green color. American artichokes are grown in California, and their season is short. They do not keep very well, and their nutritional value declines quickly after harvesting. While most of the artichokes on the market are green, some can be violet in color and even more nutritious. 

Artichoke heart in a canning jar

The most delicious part of the artichokes is the heart, which is also available jarred, canned, or cured in water or oils. They are great in salads, on pizzas, eaten plain on a charcuterie plate, or added to dips.  

Raw artichoke with the top cut off, sitting on a cutting board

To prepare artichokes for cooking or steaming, wash them and remove the outermost layer of hard leaves, then trim the stems to 1 inch. Use kitchen shears or a sharp knife to cut off the top one inch of the artichoke, exposing the heart. 

Raw artichoke with the top cut off, sitting in a steamer

Artichokes can be boiled or steamed. Boiling artichokes increases their antioxidant levels, an exception to the general rule of boiled vegetables, but steaming triples the antioxidants. It can take between 20-60 minutes to steam an artichoke, depending on its size. When cooked, they will have a nutty and slightly bitter taste. 

Raw artichoke with the top cut off, after steaming

Place artichokes in a steamer with a tight lid on and cook until soft. 

Steamed artichokes, served in a bowl and garnished with lemon slices

Steamed artichokes are served whole. The artichoke hearts are the most delicious. The outer leaves can be eaten as well, but it is more labor-intensive. Remove the petal and dip it into melted butter or dipping sauce, then pull the wide soft end through your teeth to remove the pulpy portion and discard the rest.  

Eating artichokes takes patience and dedication, but it is so worth it! 

Magda Born

Community Services Librarian

Kansas City, Kansas Public Library

625 Minnesota Ave.

Kansas City, KS 66101

913-295-8250 ext 1103



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