how to prepare an artichoke and Easter preps

March 29, 2024

It's artichoke season! I recently learned that almost one hundred percent of commercial artichokes from the USA are grown in California, and most of those are grown in Monterey County, about 50 miles from where we live. We have visited Castroville, the self-appointed Artichoke Capital of the World, many times on our way home from Carmel-By-The-Sea. In spring, the road stands are filled with gorgeous artichokes. Yes, I do think they are gorgeous! We eat them frequently when in season, but I'm always amazed at how newcomers from out of the state or country aren't always that familiar with them.

In celebration of artichoke season, let me share how to choose, prepare, and eat an artichoke. I think you’ll find they are lovely and worth the trouble. Also, read to the end and you'll see my Easter table set up a few days early!

  • Look for artichokes that are firm and compact and feel heavy for their size. The leaves should be closed and sit flat next to each other. Avoid an artichoke that has open leaves. It's probably old and it won't be tender. Size doesn't matter for flavor or quality but the large ones or the globe variety are perfect to share.
  • Fill a large pot with 3 inches of water and set to boil.
  • Wash the artichoke, then with a sharp knife, cut off the top inch.
  • With scissors, snip off the pointed tip of each leaf.
  • Cut off the last 1/4" of the stem, then with a vegetable peeler, peel the stem. When peeled, the stem is completely edible.
  • I like to cut them in half but you can leave them whole. A bigger appetite can easily eat a whole one. 
  • Cut a lime or lemon in half and rub the juice over all the cut and scraped parts, and at the last, squeeze the remaining juice over the whole thing. This adds flavor but also prevents browning.
  • Put them into the boiling water; they will not be covered by water but will be floating on top and that's ok.
  • Cover and turn heat down to a good simmer or a very light boil. Check in 20 minutes but they usually take 30 minutes to cook. To check for doneness, take a sharp knife to pierce the heart. It should give easily.
  • Serve hot, room temperature or cold with a dipping sauce, either melted butter or mayonnaise, or serve plain with salt. I'm a salt fan, my husband is a butter guy.
  • Eat the leaves with your fingers and use a knife and fork for the heart and stem. To eat, with your fingers, peel off one leaf. Dip into a sauce if desired, then draw it through your teeth, scraping the meat off the lower part of the inside of the leaf. Discard the rest of the leaf. Do this for each leaf until you come to the heart in the center. First you'll see the fuzzy choke. With a spoon, scrape off the hairy fuzz and discard. The heart is below, and both the heart and stem are completely edible, and many agree it's the best part of the artichoke. Cut the heart and stem with a knife and fork to eat. I like to make extra and serve them cold the next day. 

My mother served us artichokes for lunch when my brother and I were little, and I made them for my young son. The memory of a two year old sitting in a high chair, picking off a leaf, and then delicately dipping it into butter and scraping it between his tiny teeth is something I'll never forget.

I can't believe it's Easter weekend already. Our Southern California family is visiting the following weekend so I was not thinking too much about Easter beyond going to church in the morning. Then yesterday I started thinking that I wanted to do a little something so I quickly got on the phone and invited some single friends over who don't have family in town. I'm so glad we did, because now I can celebrate my favorite holiday twice! I set my table last night and planned my menu: freshly squeezed orange juice, country brunch egg casserole, roasted asparagus, green salad, cheddar biscuits, and an old fashioned raspberry jello salad (I halve it) that my husband's mother used to make. After all this talk about artichokes, I still won't be serving them because when I went to the store the asparagus was too beautiful to pass up!

When I set my table I always pick my flowers first. The flowers will guide my tablecloth, napkin and plate choices. This week, the garden provided green hellebores, Spanish Bluebells, asparagus fern and lavender. I decided to rely on plain white Pottery Barn plates and my grandmother's white damask tablecloth, and for a pop of color I used my lime green and bright lavender Le Jacquard napkins from the days when I worked at a lovely home decor shop in town.

I slurped this off the web for inspiration but unfortunately didn't label it so can't share the source.
Isn't it beautiful? I imagine the Easter Bunny would approve.

I hope you feel blessed this Easter Sunday and have something eggstraspecial planned. xo Kristen

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  1. We love artichokes Kristen. My husband makes them for us. He makes a special sauce for dipping. Your table is lovely. Happy Easter.

    1. Thank you. Love the idea of a special sauce!

  2. this is uncanny. We were at a restaurant recently which had fried artichokes as their special but I chose the asparagus because it was more healrhy. Had them your style decades ago at my college friend’s house she loved them. They were delicous. Happy Easter! Chloe

    1. I don't remember ever eating a fried artichoke but see them on menus. I think they must be baby artichokes? Or just the heart? Well, anything fried is just good, let's face it.


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