Open field artichoke
Open field artichoke in Brittany. (Photo Credit: Artichauts de Bretagne by Flickr user Surinaghi)

Artichoke have a sweet and unique delicate taste and soft texture. When it’s time to eat it, remember these few things you have to know to really enjoy it. The word ‘artichoke’ comes from the Italian articiocco (1400 in Naples) also coming from Arabic al-harsufa. The artichokes are initially from the Mediterranean area and spread in Egypt and in the western part of Europe. They were introduced in France around 1533 by Catherine de Medicis.

Artichokes are produced in all continents. In Europe, the main producing countries are Italy and Spain, far ahead of France. Egypt and Morocco are the main African producers. The best season in Europe to consume them is from the end of the winter until the end of the summer.

Artichokes are from the thistle family. It’s very healthy and will provide you with antioxidants, fibers, vitamins, minerals. There are two sorts of artichokes, the whites and the violets. The biggest artichoke is the white one from Brittany in France (camus de Bretagne) and it weights from 300g to 500g per piece. The littlest ones are violets.

Tips for Eating Artichoke:

  • We eat the flower bud of the plant.
  • When you buy it, take care of the general appearance: the leaves should be closed, the artichoke has to be weighty, and without any black spots on the leaves.
  • You can conserve it raw for a few days in you refrigerator. Never store cooked artichoke more than two days, dangerous mould could make you ill!
  • Be careful when preparing and eating artichokes, the leaves can be prickly.
  • You can eat it steamed or boiled: after breaking the stem, remove the exterior leaves, put the artichokes in salted cold water, head down (use a plate if necessary), and let them boil for 15 to 45 minutes according to their size. You can let them cool in the water to eat them tepid. To make them look even nicer you can also cut the tips off of the leaves before cooking.
  • You can eat the little artichokes raw or fried in a pan.
  • You will need your fingers to eat each leaf, with your teeth, you will scratch along the soft part of the leaf to get the edible part. Then use your fork and knife to eat the base, which is considered as the best part, the famous artichoke heart…

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  • When you eat the leaves with a vinaigrette, put your fork under the plate, put vinaigrette in the low part of your plate and dip the leaves into it!
  • You can prepare other sauces such as melted butter, mayonnaise, tomato sauce….
  • The base of the artichokes can be used in salads, in risotto, cakes, doughnuts… You can also serve stuffed artichokes (with cheese, meat, vegetable… a lot of recipes are waiting for you) or savoring them in special dishes like ‘artichauts à la barigoule’ (artichokes with mushrooms in South of France) or as the Jewish style in Rome.
Artichoke stuffed with Royal crab. (Photo Credit: Les artichauts farcis et crabe royal (Grüner Veltliner Hefeabstich Dom. Wimmer Czerny 2012) by Flickr user food-porn)
Artichoke stuffed with Royal crab. (Photo Credit: Les artichauts farcis et crabe royal (Grüner Veltliner Hefeabstich Dom. Wimmer Czerny 2012) by Flickr user food-porn)
  •  It’s not simple to recommend a single type of wine to eat with artichokes because they have a mineral taste that can bother the wine savoring. Red wine or white wine will be adapted  according to the cooking you have chosen.
  •  In France, if someone says that you have an artichoke heart (cœur d’artichaut), it means that you fall in love very easily (a leaf for everyone…), it can be cute! But if they call you ‘artichoke head’ (tête d’artichaut), it signifies that or you’re idiot or you don’t seem to feel fine…

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