Artichoke benefits are plentiful—they an antioxidant powerhouse that add distinct flavour to dishes year-round.
Not sure how to prepare them? Follow the step-by-step guide below and you’ll wonder why you didn’t add artichoke to your diet sooner.
Once you master artichoke preparation, finding ways to incorporate this thistle into your favourite meals, from salads to soups, can become a much-loved culinary adventure.
You don’t have to be a chef to learn how to prepare artichoke, an ancient plant that has been cultivated before 800BC. Once its thorns are trimmed and petals pulled off, you’re on your way to creating myriad dishes with a perennial plant once favoured by kings and commoners alike.
Liver-loving and cholesterol-reducing, the artichoke not only has a delicate and nutty flavour, which lends itself to a variety of hot and cold dishes, it’s also a great diet addition if you want to keep your body functioning optimally, says holistic health coach Jasmine Matthews.
“They’re high in fibre, making artichokes a great choice if you have digestive issues, and the leaves contain a polyphenol antioxidant called cynarin, which has been found to increase bile flow. This keeps the liver in better shape and therefore benefits the rest of the body through better detoxification,” Matthews says.
However, artichoke benefits go even further: She also says the artichoke has also been found to have important cancer-fighting properties.
“Artichoke leaf extract is known to encourage the death of cancer cells, which could be helpful to those suffering from prostate and breast cancers, as well as leukaemia. Flavanoids found in artichokes were also found in one study to reduce the risk of breast cancer—artichoke benefits are really worth knowing about.”
A member of the sunflower family, artichokes can grow as big as six feet wide and four feet tall, and are thought to have originated in the Mediterranean and Canary Islands. Also referred to as the French or green artichoke, there are 140 known varieties, which today are grown worldwide and harvested for culinary use in Spain, Italy and France and the United States.
The vegetable seen on supermarket shelves is actually the blossom of the plant. If allowed to flower, it would measure almost three centimetres wide.
How to Prepare Artichoke
1. Use scissors to remove the thorned tips of the leaves. It’s worth noting, however, that if left on, thorns soften during cooking and are fine to consume.
2. Slice about a centimetre, to a centimetre-and-a-half from the tip of the artichoke.
3. Remove smaller leaves that grow towards the base and on the stem.
4. Cut off excess stem, leaving up to about two centimetres on the artichoke. The stems tend to be bitter compared to the rest of the artichoke. Alternatively cut off the stems and peel off the outside layers.
5. Rinse in cold water.
6. In a large pot, fill with approximately five to 10 centimetres of water. Add a clove of garlic, a slice of lemon, and a bay leaf for flavour. Place a steamer over the top and include the artichokes before covering
7. Bring to the boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 25 to 45 minutes or until the outer leaves can easily be pulled off. Cooking time depends on the artichoke size.
How to Eat Artichoke
Eating the artichoke’s whole petal may be fibrous, but not recommended. Eating the fleshy pulp is where the goodness lies. Simply hold the thinner end of the leaf, with the curved side facing downwards. Then pull through the teeth to enjoy the soft pulp. Discard what’s left.
The artichoke heart is also edible. To prepare, simply scrape out and discard the fuzzy insides, before cutting the remaining heart into chunks. These are ideal for dunking into dips such as hummus.