Friday, 15 February 2013

Globe Artichokes

Jane wrote recently on her Onions and Paper blog about the "Results to Effort ratio",  highlighting how some recipes, dishes or food products are over-complicated and deliver something very mediocre despite a huge amount of work - as opposed to some really good simple recipes or ingredients that allow you to make a great dish with hardly any effort at all. My post today examines a prime example of the bad sort - the Globe Artichoke!

I know that some people rave about the merits of the Artichoke, but I'm not amongst them. The Artichoke to me is at best "all right", not a great gourmet delicacy. If one of them were served up to me I wouldn't scrape it off my plate, but I certainly wouldn't seek them out.  Consider this: you start with a vegetable that looks impressive, but definitely a challenge to prepare...


Now you can eat a cooked Artichoke leaf-by-leaf, scraping the minuscule amount of edible material off the base of each leaf with your teeth (if you have a lot of patience), but more realistically you will probably want to delve your way through the numerous layers of scale-like leaves of a raw one in an attempt to locate the so-called "heart" of this vegetable, well-hidden as it is, and protected by a thick layer of hairy fibres known as the "choke" (probably called this because you would choke on it if you attempted to eat it!).


To get even to the stage shown above, which would allow you to start tackling the choke, you have to trim away with a sharp knife about nine tenths of the vegetable - but you're not finished yet... After a ridiculous amount of trimming, scraping, yanking of fibres (most likely accompanied by liberal cursing), you may if you're lucky end up with a small grey saucer-like disc of rubbery material. Hooray, you have reached the heart!


It will be grey. Definitely. As hard as you try to prevent this happening, it WILL turn grey, even if you apply copious amounts of lemon juice as is normally recommended (this will effectively obliterate any natural flavour that this unattractive object may ever have had.). Look - these two hearts are the result of about half an hour's work:


Attractive, eh? Oh, and don't let's forget to look at what else you get - about half a cubic metre of debris:


Well, I suppose it makes good compost...

Now, I'm sorry, but I really don't think the end result justifies all this effort. If the Artichoke heart was absolutely delicious (I mean seriously delicious - "to die for" or such-like) then I might perhaps think differently, but it's simply NOT. It's OK, no more.

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P.S. Re the "Dragon" Rhubarb - I looked back and found out who it was that called it this. It was Dawn from Dawn's Garden Life. Are you still reading my blog, Dawn? I hope so... Here's that picture again, just for you!

16 comments:

  1. I agree about artichokes Mark although I've never actually tasted one. Never fancied all the messing about and you have confirmed that it isn't worth the effort. In their favour they are very ornamental and provide structure to a flower beds and the bees absolutely adore the flowers

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  2. Oh yum I love artichokes. I have just sown some seeds in the propagator. The purple variety, the name eludes me at the moment. Yes they are a complete faff to prepare.

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  3. Oh dear. I did go through that kerfuffle once a loooong time ago. And then I just bought them from the deli (I do think they are yum). But perhaps madly I planted an artichoke last year. I'm not sure I can be bothered with all that mucking about though. I might just keep enjoying their flowers which are lovely.

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  4. I've never tried artichokes, but I've read on many blogs how delicious they are. How tastes differ, eh?

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  5. You could be overpreparing them Mark? I grew some from seed last year.Had a few first year smallish heads which I cut off with a couple of inches of the stem and gently cooked them whole in with my french beans etc.A few tissuey bits of leaves but overall they were tender and delicious (including the stem bit)with a squeeze of lemon and some butter.Perhaps it's because they were fresh and hadn't begun to harden up?
    Hopefully the plants will establish themselves this year ,they have pride of place at the top of my plot.

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  6. I think that artichokes take a bit, or perhaps a lot of practice to prepare. I just trimmed a dozen medium sized chokes down to their hearts in 15 minutes which includes washing time. Granted, I didn't remove the chokes, these had small ones that aren't nasty. I trimmed off the tough outer leaves, pared down the bases, and cut the pointy tops off and cut each one in half. I toss them in a pot of water with some white wine, bay leaves, thyme sprigs, fennel and coriander seeds, peppercorns, and salt; drizzle in some good olive oil, bring to a boil then turn off the heat and let them cool in the cooking liquid. I can finish them by roasting them in a hot oven, or grill them, or cut them in smaller wedges and saute them by themselves or with other vegetables, or simmer them in some tomato sauce. Tonight I'm going to roast them with some White Sea Bass filets.

    So yes I have had a fair bit of practice prepping artichokes. But I do have the self proclaimed Artichoke Capital of the World nearly in my back yard and can drop by the farm stand to pick up a dozen or so at any time of the year. I think that with a bit more practice that you might become an artichoke afficionado too. :)

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    1. Near Pescadaro? I probably spelled that wrong. I've been there, there is a little bakery that if you time it right you can get the artichoke garlic bread still warm. Heavenly!

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  7. my father used to cook globe artichokes all the time when i was a kid. he'd serve them with melted garlic butter, dipping each individual leaf. we loved it. but mostly because it was dipped in garlic butter!

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  8. lol I so agree with you. I never buy them. I don't order them when I go out. But I don't hate them either. They are pretty nondescript to me. I used to like them when I was growing up. We did eat them leaf by leaf, but I got to put melted butter on every leaf. That is what made them good.

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  9. I'd like to try artichokes, make them for dinner or something, but my husband is against us eating artichokes because he says that they can make you fart constantly after eating ;)

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    1. I think that your husband means Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) not Globe (Cynara scolymus) .OK I admit to finding out the actual Latin names from t'internet.

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    2. Actually Dewberry, your husband is correct. Both my husband and I find the Globe has the same affect as the Jerusalem, perhaps not quite as severe! This is odd because the plants are not related in any way.

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  10. I rather like them Mark and don't find them that difficult, a good pair of kitchen shears will knock them right down. Aso if you cook them with the last few inner leaves still attached enclosing the choke, then cut that off and use a spoon to scoop out the choke in one go, it's pretty easy, and no tedious "plucking." But, to each his own.

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  11. Oh they are one of my favorite veggies! I cook and eat the leaves attached. Pre-steam then grill with salt, pepper and oil! The small ones are great because almost all of the inner leaves are completely edible. The outer leaves you can scrape and then comes the last prize...the heart! With the smaller ones I clean off some of the outer leaves, half them and be sure to keep the stem (just take off the outer "skin" of it) and cook with olive oil, garlic and some hot pepper flakes. Cook on each side for a few minutes then add some broth and let cook down with lid. Almost the whole thing is completely edible!

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  12. haha, this made me laugh Mark. I went through exactly the same process after my wife banged on and on about them. They left me underwhelmed too, especially after all the effort.

    And the buggers have huge roots which snapped a spade and a fork when I tried to move them!

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  13. We're huge fans of eating each leaf - really sweet and tasty. Sarah's favourite recipe is with a herb and egg sauce. We filmed her last year making it - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2r5xwLITl4k - let us know what you think?

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