“Welcome to my little thistle patch.” Eeyore’s Thistle Patch by A. A. Milne
Artichokes are a starchy veggie but high in Vitamin A and potassium and. . . “The artichoke’s spiny green flowers, which are eaten like a vegetable, contain a substance called cynarin. A recent study showed that this compound may help rid the body of artery-clogging cholesterol and lower triglycerides, thus reducing the risk of heart disease.” CBS Better Nutrition
It’s probably easier to pick out a good artichoke than it is to pick out a good melon. The leaves need to be tight and green. When you squeeze it, it should make a squeaky noise. That lets you know its fresh and moist.The choke should feel heavy for its size. My own preference is for artichokes that still have some stem attached, which is good to eat and helps the choke retain moisture.
To prepare the artichoke for cooking:
- With a sharp knife tip and top the choke; that is, cut the stem off so that it will sit flat in the pot and on the plate; trim the top.
- Peel off the smaller lower leaves on the outside of the choke. Usually just one layer will do it.
- With a kitchen shears or other sharp scissor, trim the thorny tip from the top of each leaf.
- Pressing down on the choke, spread the leaves open a bit. Or, you can do it my own eccentric way, which is to take the ball of the choke in my hand and bang the top of it against the side of your clean sink.
- Rinse well inside and out under cold water. If you use a veggie wash, which is a good thing to do, make sure you run water though the inside to clear it all out.
Fill a pot large enough to accommodate your artichokes with enough water to come about half-way up the chokes. Set them in the pan. Peel and sliver one or two large garlic cloves per artichoke. Slip the slivers in between the leaves. Top with a spoonful or two of extra virgin olive oil and some freshly grated Himalayan pink salt and black pepper. Toss the stems and some extra garlic cloves into the water. Bring the water to a boil. Cover. Lower heat. Simmer for approximately one hour. (Timing will depend on the size of the artichokes.) To see if they’re done, test with a butter knife, which should easily move through the center of the choke. When the artichokes are cooked through, remove them from the pot – holding each over the pot for a minute to let the water drain out and then place them on individual serving dishes.
How to eat an artichoke:
As the video notes, some like to dip the leaves in butter. I have known people to use garlic mayonnaise, Hollandaise sauce, or an array of other sauces that suit their taste. I am a purist. A bit more salt maybe for me, but that’s it. I don’t want or need anything to mask the artichoke flavor.
Now my peasant roots will show. A quick grain-free soup:
Don’t waste the cooking water. It’s full of flavor and nutrients. Leave the stems and garlic in the pot. Add a cup or two of minced carrot, onions, celery and cauliflower rice. Simmer until the veggies are tender. Taste for seasoning. Add cayenne pepper to taste. Ladle this soup into serving bowls and top with a dollop of extra-virgin olive oil and some freshly grated parmesan cheese or vegan parma.
Enjoy with a hot cup of Lebanese style Lady Grey tea. What makes it Lebanese? Serving it with a spring of fresh spearmint. If you like to sweeten it, I would suggest using only Xylotol made from birch. This is what I use.
And with that here’s the poem and poet of the day.
Ode to the Artichoke
With a tender heart
Dressed up like a warrior,
Standing at attention, it built
A small helmet
Under its scales
By its side
The crazy vegetables
Their tendrills and leaf-crowns,
In the sub-soil
With its red mustaches
Hung out to dry its branches
Through which the wine will rise,
To trying on skirts,
To perfuming the world,
And the sweet
There in the garden,
Dressed like a warrior,
Like a proud
And one day
Side by side
In big wicker baskets
Walking through the market
To realize their dream
The artichoke army
Never was it so military
Like on parade.
In their white shirts
Among the vegetables
Of the artichokes
Lines in close order
And the bang
Of a falling box.But
With her basket
She’s not afraid of it.
She examines it, she observes it
Up against the light like it was an egg,
She buys it,
She mixes it up
In her handbag
With a pair of shoes
With a cabbage head and a
She enters the kitchen
And submerges it in a pot.Thus ends
Of the armed vegetable
Which is called an artichoke,
Scale by scale,
We strip off
The peaceful mush
Of its green heart.
“You can say anything you want, yes sir, but it’s the words that sing, they soar and they descend ….. I bow to them . . . I cling to them, I run them down, I bite into them . . I love words so much … The ones I wait for greedily … they glitter like colored stones, they leap like silver fish… They are foam, thread, metal, dew … I stalk certain words… They are so beautiful that I want to fit them all into my poem… I catch them in mid-flight, as they buzz past, I trap them, clean them, peel them, I set myself in front of the dish, they have a crystalline texture to me, vibrant, ivory, vegetable, oily, like fruit, like algae, like agates, like olives… And I stir them, I shake them, I drink them, I gulp them down, I mash them, I garnish them …. I leave them in my poem like stalactites, like slivers of polished wood, like coals, like pickings from a shipwreck, gifts from the waves … Everything exists in the word.” Pablo Neruda in his Memoirs
Photo credits: California artichoke courtesy of Karen Fayeth; Neruda photo is in the U.S. Public Domain, 1966, Neruda recording his poetry