Did you know that nearly two-thirds of the world's artichokes are grown right here in Monterey County? The tiny agricultural town of Castroville, aka "Artichoke Center of the World," is the hub for this tasty thistle and even hosts a portion of the annual Artichoke Festival in late spring. You can find these tasty gems in several local restaurants dished up in a variety of crafty ways including deep fried, fire roasted and steamed.
Choosing the Perfect Artichoke
Your first experience with an artichoke may be intimidating but don't let the unusual exterior fool you. Search for artichokes that are green, heavy, firm and compact. In spring and winter, look for artichokes with a soft green color and tightly-packed leaves. During summer, artichokes tend to be flared and conical in shape. Fall and winter artichokes may be darker or bronze-tipped, or have a whitish blistered appearance due to frost. Many consider these "winter-kissed" artichokes to be the most tender and flavorful. Check out these helpful clips from Monterey County artichoke producer Ocean Mist Farms.
How to Prepare an Artichoke
Before steaming or cooking your artichoke be sure to trim the top of the globe and to cut off a small portion of the stem. You can also rub a lemon along the trimmed edges to prevent browning.
How to Cook an Artichoke
Once you have rinsed and prepared your artichoke it is now for the steamer. Place a steaming basket in a large pot of water and place a layer of artichokes leaves down in the basket. Bring the water to a boil and steam for approximately 30-40 minutes. You can check the readiness of the artichoke by placing a fork or knife into the stem. If the stem is tender than the artichoke is ready to be eaten.
How to Eat an Artichoke
Although the heart is the meatiest and most sought after part of the vegetable the plentiful leaves may also be enjoyed. Pull one leaf off at a time eating only the base of petal. Once all of the leaves have been removed you are left with a fuzzy layer protecting the heart of the artichoke. Remove this layer by scooping it out with a spoon until the heart is clean and smooth. Enjoy! For more helpful tips and tricks on preparing, cooking and eating artichokes click here.