What Is An Artichoke And What Do Artichokes Taste Like?
When wandering through the produce aisle of the grocery store, you have probably seen a number of different unique vegetables, but one may have caught your eye due to its odd look. Artichokes look pointy and strange, but do you even really know what an artichoke is? What do artichokes taste like? What can you do with them?
Learn all about these interesting produce items with this article.
What is an Artichoke?
Many people probably wonder if artichokes are fruits or vegetables. The easy answer is that they are vegetables, but the solution is very complicated. In reality, artichokes are immature thistles.
The plant that artichokes come from will produce large, purple thistles when allowed to flower. Artichokes, however, are picked prior to the flower stage of growth. Artichokes are actually the base of the leaves of the artichoke plant.
We call artichokes vegetables, because it is just the best term we can apply to them. If you consider that fruits come from pollinated flowers, then you can determine that artichokes aren’t fruits. Since, like broccoli, you eat the vegetative part of the artichoke that is surrounded by flowers on the plant, you can conclude that artichokes are vegetables.
There are six different parts to an artichoke: the stem, heart, center choke, inner petals, outer petals and thorns. We only eat the base of the petals, the center of the stem and the heart. The rest of the artichoke is discarded. When preparing an artichoke, be careful of the thorns.
These vegetables have a number of different health benefits. Artichokes are full of antioxidants, dietary fiber and folic acid. They are also good for your brain, liver, cholesterol and blood pressure.
What Do Artichokes Taste Like?
The flavor of artichokes can be difficult to describe. They don’t truly taste like anything else that exists. The flavor is mild; think of a light taste like celery or asparagus. It even has a slightly lemony taste. Some would compare it to Brussel sprouts, however, artichokes don’t have any bitterness.
The artichoke heart is somewhat similar to eggplant. It is soft, tender and juicy, but has a sweeter flavor than eggplant.
How to Prepare an Artichoke
Let’s go over a quick and easy way to prepare an artichoke. While it seems scary, it doesn’t have to be that hard at all.
- First, cut off the thorns on the tips on the petals. It will keep both your hands and mouth safe. You can use kitchen scissors to quickly and easily get rid of these thorns.
- Second, remove the top of the artichoke with a serrated knife. Remove about 3/4-inch to an inch from the top of the artichoke.
- Next, take off the small petals that are along the base of the vegetable. You can just quickly pull them off of the stem and base of the artichoke.
- Then, you will want to cut off the excess portion of the stem. Leave about an inch on the artichoke, but the rest should be removed, because it is bitterer than the rest of the plant.
- Rinse off the artichokes under cold water while you open up the petals to get them cleaner.
- Get a large pot of water on the stove with aromatics, think lemon, garlic and bay leaf.
- Add a steaming basket to the pot and place the artichokes inside.
- Cover the pot, bring it to a boil and drop the heat to a simmer. Allow cooking for 25 to 45 minutes. The outer leaves should be easy to pull off.
Learn more with this instructional video.
There are obviously many different ways to prepare artichokes. Another very common use for artichokes is in spinach artichoke dip, which is a warm dip that contains artichokes, spinach, cream cheese, sour cream, parmesan cheese and mayonnaise as well as a few seasonings. They are also used in pasta and salads.
Artichokes hearts also come jarred or canned in water with salt and citric acid. Canned artichokes tend to be much softer than fresh ones, which means that they are more likely to fall apart and they may ruin the texture of certain recipes.
You may also come across marinated artichoke hearts. These are generally canned in oil or vinegar, or both, with seasonings. They are generally firmer than other canned artichoke hearts, but since they already contain outside flavors, you may want to try them before adding them to a dish.
How to Eat an Artichoke
Artichokes can be eaten either cold or hot, but hot artichokes are especially delicious. You can serve them with dip, melted butter or mayo. To eat the artichoke, follow these easy steps:
- Pull off the petals one and a time and dip them into the sauce.
- Grip the top end of the petal, place in mouth and pull through your teeth to get the pulp out of the petal.
- Discard the rest of the petal and repeat until petals are gone.
- Remove the fuzzy choke of the artichoke.
- Cut the artichoke heart into pieces and dip it into the sauce.
While artichokes seem scary, they don’t have to be. Artichokes are delicious, nutritious vegetables that, with a little effort, can be easy to add to your current dinner favorites, as well as brand new dishes that the whole family will love.
So, what do artichokes taste like? The mild, asparagus-like flavor and firm texture of the artichoke hearts make them extremely versatile for cooking. They are also great on their own.
If you have any questions further questions about what artichokes taste like and how to prepare them, leave a comment below.