Deconstructed Artichokes And How I Tackle Them


This year we’ve had masses of globe artichokes. I have several different varieties growing at the allotment, probably with the notion (as suggested by gardener-cook Sarah Raven) that doing this would extend the cropping season. It hasn’t. Well, not by much.

My usual way of cooking artichokes (one each) is to split then down the middle, cutting from stem to tip, scoop out the choke, drizzle the cut edges with lemon juice to stop discolouration (optional), then steam the halves for around 20 minutes. While that’s happening I put a dish on the hob and melt a big nugget of butter with a couple of cloves of crushed garlic (sometimes butter and olive oil), and when the artichokes are done, spoon this ‘sauce’ into each hollow.

After that it’s all a matter of pulling off the scaly leaves, dipping their bases in the garlic butter pool and sucking. By the time one gets to the flat juicy base, there’s no point in opting for a knife and fork, we’re all too butter fingered and dribbly chinned. Though a slice of wholemeal bread at this point may come in handy for general mopping up.

It is all incredibly messy, the kind of eating that Graham refers to as an ‘all over body experience’ and one that requires a thorough ‘hosing down’ afterwards. You also need to have ready a big dish for the debris. This later goes to ‘feed’ the hot composting bin.

Anyway, there’s only so much hedonistic dining a body can take, and I was just getting to the point of wondering who else at the allotment might like to eat our artichokes when I remembered Francesco da Mosto’s Venice TV series (2004!) It included a scene of women traders preparing buckets of what Francesco referred to as  ‘artichoke bottoms’, these to be sold to Venetian cooks who couldn’t  be bothered to confront this often challenging vegetable.

Artichoke bottoms! It had to be tried. The only problem, I quickly discovered, is that you need an incredibly sharp knife. Also most of my green globe heads were  supporting an insectopolis of aphids, ants and earwigs that required some determined flushing out. After that it was down to the bread knife to get to the bottom of the bottom. At least it got part of the job done, though I regreted my lack of Venetian finesse.

And so the photo. There comes a point when hacking can devolve to peeling (watching out for spiny leaf tips). As I reached the middle of this particular artichoke, and rather strangely, the last leaves clicked open in unison like a mechanical flower, so revealing the hairy choke and also providing this rather good imitation of a water lily.

I did not photograph the bottoms. After all the battling with bugs and wielding the contents of my knife drawer, there was not much to show for eight heads’ worth of artichoke. They are anyway not very pretty and seem to discolour whether or not you put them in acidulated water. But never mind. I braised them gently in olive oil with crushed garlic and fresh chopped oregano, added sliced baby courgettes and garden peas and served them sprinkled with pandano cheese. Delicious and also eaten using appropriate cutlery, so avoiding the dribbling and hosing down elements of my usual method. Some, of course, might think this drawback.



Square Perspective #3

42 thoughts on “Deconstructed Artichokes And How I Tackle Them

  1. Yummy! I love artichokes in all their forms, though I do prefer the messy option. And artichoke bottoms seem to appearing more on our shelves in tins and jars, and in the freezer cabinet.

    1. Tinned, jarred and frozen bottoms, that’s good to know for the off-season, Debbie. They really are hard work to prepare. And the kitchen fall-out from uncontained chokes!

  2. Artichokes are rarely seen here in the produce section. I have eaten them in the more hands on way with my brother in California years ago. Typically they find the way to our plates from a jar.
    I hope this finds you well as we are here. Just a far slower pace of life. 🙂

    1. Hello, Sue. Good to hear you’re well, if slowed down. That must be hard for you two, explorations curtailed?! We are fine too, thanks. Must be all the veggies.

      1. It has been an interesting time grinding to a halt travel wise. Time for reflection, setting future priorities and basking in memories of so many fabulous adventures. We feel fortunate to have been able to see so much.
        Glad to hear you are doing well. Garden on!

      2. Sometimes it’s good to have time to reflect on past travels. In fact I’ve done so much reflecting, I don’t actually feel the inclination to travel in real time 🙂

  3. Such incredible plants, and who on earth thought of first eating them?! Really quite bizarre. I have never grown, never prepared but am always very happy to come round to someone else’s and eat!!

      1. Just weird . . . the first time I ever ate one I found it all a bit strange, but at least I knew you could do it!

    1. Hello Lisa. I’ve been meaning to pay you a visit. I read your recent post via my email feed. What a lot you and the Captain have been through. A shock to both your systems. In fact it was a shock just to read of your travails. Heartfelt good wishes to you both. Txx

  4. What a lovely arty photo! I have never grown them and only ever prepared and eaten them when I was an au pair in Geneva. I also had to prepare stuffed sheep’s brains or was it hearts? Whatever. I wasn’t so keen on those!

  5. Beautiful photo Tish. I admire your artichoke endeavours. I have bought the odd jar of “bottoms” which seem to just languish in the fridge.

    1. I think it depends on how they’ve been preserved, i.e. whether the packaged versions work or not. Any addition of vinegar seems to greatly detract. I can understand the fridge languishing outcome.

  6. Artichokes are a thing of beauty and a joy for as long as it takes to eat them. Whenever I see or buy artichokes hearts (marinated, canned in water, or frozen), I bemoan all those leaves that went uneaten. Sounds delish, Tish. Oooo, I’m a poet and didn’t know it. Happy weekend.


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