Happy National Artichoke Hearts Day!
Are you an artichoke heart lover? Do you know what an artichoke heart is? If so, you’ll find lots of like-minded people in the state of California, on the west coast of the United States. It’s true! Not only are 99.99% of all US commercially grown artichokes grown in California, but artichokes were proclaimed to be California’s Official Vegetable in 2013. In fact, the California Artichoke Advisory Board is dedicated to promoting artichokes and related research.
Although California dominates the artichoke growing market among states in the USA, the USA is still a net importer of artichokes. Worldwide production of the artichoke is led by Italy, followed by Egypt, Spain and Argentina, according to Agricultural Marketing Resource Center.
An artichoke heart is the innermost portion of an artichoke – it is what’s left after all the leaves are removed and the “choke” (fuzzy top layer of the heart) is discarded.
Although we love them, artichokes can be intimidating to prepare. Don’t worry – it’s easier than it looks! Here’s how to prepare an artichoke and remove the heart:
- Pull the small, thorny leaves off the base of the artichoke and discard them – usually the first two or three rows of leaves can be discarded.
- Rinse the whole artichoke under cold, running water. Use a soft vegetable brush to remove the natural light film on the outside of the artichoke, which can cause a bitter taste. Allow the water to get in between the leaves.
- Pat the artichoke dry with a clean kitchen towel or paper towel.
- Place the rinsed artichoke on a cutting board and remove about one third of it from the top tip and about 1/4″ from the bottom stem with a kitchen knife. Peel off the outer skin of the remaining stem portion (or remove the entire stem if you plan to place them upright in a dish for baking or grilling).
- Use kitchen scissors to cut off the thorny tips (spines) on all of the remaining leaves. Although these will soften during baking, its best to remove them now so neither you or your guests get stabbed in the fingers by them.
- Remove the purple center of the artichoke by sliding a spoon down the sides of it, scraping gently as you go.
- Remove the fuzzy white hairs inside the center of artichoke – this is the “choke” which can be a choking hazard. Use your spoon to scrape them out, but be careful not to scrape into the flesh of the artichoke heart, which is just below the choke you are removing.
- Rub half of a cut lemon on the cut top/bottom of the artichoke. The acidic lemon juice will prevent the cut areas of the artichoke from turning brown when they are exposed to the air, and it will also add some flavor. Optionally, you can dip the artichoke into a bowl containing one teaspoon of lemon juice per each cup of water.
- Gently spread open the artichoke petals with your hands, to allow for seasoning/stuffing to fall between the leaves.
- You are now ready to cook the artichoke by boiling, steaming, stuffing/baking, grilling, or microwaving. See videos of these various preparation methods on the California Artichoke Advisory Board site.
Note: to harvest the heart from a whole cooked artichoke, spread open the petals of the cooked artichoke to expose the tender center leaves. Grab the center leaves with your fingers and twist clockwise and pull them out. Then, use a spoon to remove the fuzzy center and expose the tender heart. Scrape out the heart with a spoon.
Do you have any artichoke preparation tips share? Let us know in the comments section below!
If you don’t want to prepare your own artichoke hearts, they are widely available frozen and in cans packed with a brine. Be sure to drain the brine before using them.
Celebrate the lovely artichoke heart with one of these recipes:
- Recipe: Artichoke-Mozzarella Crostini
- Recipe: Brown Rice with Artichokes and Green Beans
- Recipe: Spinach and Artichoke Wrap
- Recipe: Spinach and Artichoke Stuffed Bread
- Recipe: Brown Rice with Artichoke Hearts and Green Beans
- Recipe: Salad of Sauteed Artichokes Hearts over Lettuce (see photo below)
- Recipe: Spinach-Artichoke Dip (Served Hot)
While on social media today, tout your love of artichokes using the hashtag #NationalArtichokeHeartsDay