Artichokes is one of my favorite veggies. I usually make quite a lot of them during artichoke peak season, which is usually December through April. But I know there are farms in California that cultivate artichokes all year round.
If you’ve never tried artichokes you’ve most certainly seen them at a grocery store.
They look like a gigantic flower buds with large green petals sometimes with purple coloration (depending on artichoke variety).
If allowed to flower, the blossoms are of beautiful violet-blue color and can reach up to 7 inches in diameter.
Types of Artichokes
There are many artichoke varieties in the world, depending on the region. But mainly we can distinguish 3 types of artichokes: large/round, elongated/purple, and thorny artichokes which only grow in Sardinia (Italy).
The Green Globe
Probably the most well known and widely spread artichoke variety in North America.
Green Globe artichokes or simple called The Globe artichokes are 3-5 inches in diameter and have delicious thick, flavorful hearts and fleshy leaved. They also clean the easiest and have less waste in preparation process.
They grown mainly in California where mild winters and moderate heat summers create the perfect environment for artichoke cultivation.
The Globe artichoke is the best when harvested early and cooked asap.
Mammole artichokes are the traditional variety from Rome. These artichokes are green with a light purple tinge. They have no thorns. They are large, tender and meaty with a delicate taste.
Like The Green Globe it can be baked, stuffed or just eaten with some salt. It's amazing stuffed with a mixture of parsley, mint and garlic - Italian Stuffed Artichokes.
Big Romanesco is another artichoke variety from Rome. It has a distinct rich purple color with large round heads.
Another Italian type of elongated artichoke tinged with violet on the bracts. It has very little choke if harvested young and tight.
Ather famous purple varieties artichokes are 'Violet de Provence' (France), 'Violet d'Algerie' (Algeria),'Violetta di Chioggia' (Italy). These artichokes are medium size and slightly different in taste.
Thorny Sardinian Artichoke
Thorny Sardinian Artichoke or Carciofo Spinoso Sardo is the most important and the oldest variety cultivated on the island of Sardinia.
It is of an elongated conical shape with mostly green petals and accentuated brown-violet nuances.
Spinoso di Sardegna artichoke is valued for its high nutritional value and exceptional taste.
For these qualities it has obtained the Protected Designation of Origin (D.O.P.) reserved for artichokes that meet the conditions and requirements set out in the Production Specifications.
And this is a kind of artichoke that I’ll be showcasing today.
However the principles of cleaning and cooking all types of artichokes are pretty much the same.
How to clean fresh artichokes
You’ll need disposable gloves (optional, but they’ll protect your hands from possible coloring), a large bowl with water, one large lemon and 4-8 artichokes.
Cut a lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the bowl with fresh water.
Keep the lemon halves.
Start by trimming off the stem (leaving about and the tip (approx ⅓) of the artichoke head.
Remove tough outer petals but trying to keep as much as you can of the bottom part where the leaves attach to the core. Outer petals in most types of artichokes are fibrous and slightly bitter. With globe artichokes however you can remove very few or simple cut the top part of the outer petals with the scissors.
Now, using a small sharp knife cut off a thin layer to remove the bright green parts left on the root of trimmed petals. Using same knife or vegetable peeler peel the outer fibrous layer of the stem keeping only the center.
Immediately rub all cut ends with lemon halves you’ve set aside earlier.
If you’re not planning on stuffing artichoke or using it as whole, cut each in half.
Otherwise deep it in lemon water immediately as cut artichokes discolor rapidly.
Using a teaspoon or melon baller scoop/scrape out the "hairy" choke. In Italian it’s called “barba” which literally means “beard”. It’s the part that would turn into a flower if left to mature.
Once you’ve cleaned an artichoke half deep it in water with lemon asap.
Then proceed to trimming and cleaning the next one.
And now you’re pretty much done. If required by the recipe, you can now cut artichoke in quarters or smaller pieces.
Curiosity from What’s Cooking America
In the 1920s, Ciro Terranova “Whitey” (1889-1938), a member of the mafia and known as the “Artichoke King,” began his monopoly of the artichoke market by purchasing all the produce shipped to New York from California at $6 a crate. He created a produce company and resold the artichokes at 30 to 40 percent profit. Not only did he terrorize distributors and produce merchants, he even launched an attack on the artichoke fields from Montara to Pescadero, hacking down the plants with machetes in the dead of night. These “artichoke wars” led the Mayor or New York, Fiorello La Guardia, to declare “the sale, display, and possession” of artichokes in New York illegal. Mayor La Guardia publicly admitted that he himself loved the vegetable and after only one week he lifted the ban.
How to cook fresh artichokes
In Italy, fresh artichokes are one of the most beloved veggies.
They are perfect in antipasto/appetizer, pasta dishes, even with main courses with meat.
Here are some of the simple fresh artichoke recipes you can start with: