I know at least a few people that have never tasted artichokes before, and I guess you do too. It is, I assume, because of its peculiar look, and the fact that most of that people cannot even start to assume how to eat them.
For this reason, I have decided to write this guide that will try to answer the ultimate question what does artichoke taste like, but also how to prepare them to bring out their best taste, and, finally, how to eat them and not feel or to look silly!
Oh yes, I will mention the health benefits as well, since everyone wants to lead a healthy life nowadays!
What are Artichokes?
Sounds trivial, but believe me there are many people who have never seen an artichoke, or have seen it but had no idea what it is, and whether it is eatable or not. This is why I want to provide some basic information and resolve the everlasting dilemma- is artichoke a vegetable or a fruit? In fact, I will tell you that right away- it is definitely a vegetable!
There is an interesting legend that tells the story of how the artichokes came to be. It says that Zeus himself created them by turning a girl that has rejected him into a thistle. Although kind of a sad story, even the ancient people realized the nutritional wealth of this unusual-looking vegetable and the health benefits it provided and used it in their diet.
The plant itself grows as a weed in warm and dry Mediterranean regions. It is actually a three feet tall plant with purple flowers. The artichokes that we eat are thistles or buds that form at the base of these flowers of a plant scientifically known as Cynara cardunculus.
You should pick these buds when they are small, and the flower has not fully bloomed, as they will be the tastiest and tender. You are supposed to eat the end of leaves and the heart, which is the most full of flavor, but we will come to that later.
Why eat an artichoke? They are not easy to prepare, they are tasty, but so are many other less pricey and easier to obtain vegetables, so the main reason why you should choose the artichokes is their positive influence on your health.
First of all, artichokes are packed with antioxidants, and we have all heard of them and their importance. USDA list of top twenty antioxidant-rich foods positioned artichokes on the seventh place, which is quite good isn’t it?
Besides antioxidants artichokes are also rich in dietary fibers, but also a great source of folate and vitamins C, K, B-6, B-12, D, E, and A, but also riboflavin,thiamin, and niacin. Important minerals are also there such Ca, Fe, Zn, and many others our body needs to function properly.
Thanks to this, artichokes are considered to be a nutrient powerhouse. They are believed to have strong anti-cancerogenic properties, but also to boost the immune system and thus protect us from numerous diseases. They lower the cholesterol too and are thus recommended for those who suffer from cardiovascular problems as a preventive measure against heart attack and stroke. People with diabetes and atherosclerosis should also include this vegetable into their everyday diet.
Another health benefit we must not forget to mention is the detoxifying effect that will better your liver function and improve your digestion. The list goes on, and we can spend a lot of time enumerating all the health benefits of this precious plant, but you can already realize our point, isn’t that right? The point is you should definitely eat artichokes as often and as much as you possibly can! Now that you know you should eat them lets move on to how to prepare them...
How to Prepare Artichokes
As we have already mentioned, artichokes are not the easiest food to prepare but are more than worth the effort. Their exterior is not inviting, but when you invest a little time and effort to prepare them carefully, you will be richly rewarded with a delicate taste and all the health benefits we have discussed in the previous section.
It is better to choose the smaller buds as they prepare in less time, but also taste better (the larger ones can have a bitter taste). To prepare them you need to:
You can either boil or steam the artichokes.
Prepare the artichokes following the advice we have provided for you. Boil some water (around 3 inches deep) in a pot. You should add some lemon juice and oil. Seasoning is optional and depends on your personal taste.
Position the artichokes head up, cover the pot with a lid, and let them boil for minimum 20 minutes. The actual time depends on the size of artichokes, but it never exceeds one hour. If you are not sure if they are done, you can test it by pulling one petal positioned near the center- if it comes out easily, the artichoke is well-cooked.
When your artichoke is definitely cooked well, you can take it out of the pot and place it upside down on a kitchen towel or a rack. Let it drain for a few minutes, and it is good to eat.
Extra tip: You can cook more artichokes than you intend to eat at once! They will remain tasty even after you keep them refrigerated for several days.
You should have an appropriate rack that will fit your pot. Once again prepare the artichokes following our advice, and then place them on a rack. Lower a rack into the pot with about two inches of boiling water. Position the lid and let artichokes steam at least twenty-five minutes (up to an hour). You can perform a petal-test to check if they are done.
How To Eat Artichokes
It is fairly easy- pull the leaves using your fingers ( you do not need a fork, spoon or a knife). Hold the petal near the pointed side and place it between your teeth as to scrape the edible part of the leaf.
The more you approach the heart or the center there will be more to scrape, but you should be careful not to get hurt by prickly ends. You can prepare a dip or use a mayonnaise- there are many great ideas out there in your recipe book, I am sure. If not, consult the internet.
After you eat all the petals or leafs, you will have the most flavorful part- the heart. At this point, you will have to use a knife and a fork to enjoy the richness of the heart’s taste.
What Does an Artichoke Taste Like?
I have saved the best for the last! It is good to know everything about artichokes before you taste them as that will make you appreciate them even more. Although it is not easy to describe how something tastes, mostly because we all have different preferences, I will give it a try.
The most similar taste I can compare a boiled artichoke to is that of an asparagus. It is not a strong taste that will overpower you, but it has a delicate sweetness and a mild aroma of nuts. It can even be called a bit tangy.
It is similar to many other green vegetables like broccoli and Brussel sprouts, but at the same time quite unique. The texture resembles that of boiled potatoes, and can also be paired with almost any ingredient.
The flavor artichokes have is definitely interesting and worth exploring. I recommend that you judge for yourself- I am sure you will like it! They are not considered a delicacy and priced so high for no reason!