Globe artichokes (Cynara scolymus) are part of the thistle family – so in the right climate, they grow like weeds. Beautiful, delicious (non-invasive) weeds.
We’ve planted a lot of them amongst our edible forest garden as a stunning (and tasty) perennial. When it comes to eating them, it can initially be a tad confusing about how to cook or preserve them. When I first started trying to eat these plants, I remember boiling them for far too long and then kind of just mauling them – and being super disappointed and baffled – but friends, times have changed. Here’s how we most commonly eat and preserve them – I hope it helps you avoid the baffled mauling I initially did!
How to eat them…
- We harvest the flower buds when they’re young – before their petals have opened, or are only just slightly open.
- We either boil or steam them in a big pot of water and cook them until you can easily stick a fork or butter knife through them.
- We then serve them up like that with a side bowl dipping sauce – I like to use olive oil and lemon juice (there’s many variations to this dipping sauce).
- Simply peel the petals one by one, dip them into the sauce and using your teeth, scrap the fleshy bit of the petal off.
- Eventually you get to the squishy heart – which you can can whole.
- You end up with a big bowl of half eaten petals (you can’t eat the tough bit) which you can then compost.
But there’s only so many artichokes you can eat, which is where preserving comes in handy.
How to preserve them…
- Harvest the buds while young (as described above) and bring them into your kitchen.
- Top and tail them and seen below.
Then remove the outer (tougher) petals as these won’t soften and are mostly not edible.
I then chop them in half as this is the size I like to eat them in once they’re preserved. It’s also helpful to make all the pieces a similar size so they cook at the same rate.
For some of the larger flower buds they may have developed a spiky fur inside. The younger buds can have a softer (non offensive) version of this which you can see forming above (edible and delicious – don’t worry about it).
But for the older buds – you want to get rid of all the spiky stuff you can see below…
I use a spoon and scoop it out. See before photo above and after photo below.
The same heart can be seen below – just chopped in half ready to be cooked. You can see the spiky fur stuff I’ve scooped out to the right – compost it.
If you’re preserving LOTS of artichokes, have a bowl of water and vinegar (or lemon juice) you can soak them in while they wait for you to be ready to cook them. This will stop them from going a yucky brown colour.
Once you’re ready, pop them in a pot with water and a steamer and cook until their soft enough for a fork to go through them easily.
The vinegar bit…
While they’re cooking, it’s time to make a vinegar solution which is what will actually preserve them on the shelf. You’ll need:
- Apple cider vinegar – enough to fill the jars you’re planning on stuffing with artichokes.
- Rosemary (to taste)
- Garlic (to taste)
- Bay leaves (to taste)
- Peppercorns (to taste)
Mix them all into a pot, bring to the boil and then let it simmer while the artichokes are cooking.
Once the artichokes have finished
Pop them straight into sterilised glass jars and pour the vinegar solution over them so every bit is covered. Either screw the lid of the jar on, or use a fowler vacola lid system* and store on the shelf until your’e ready to eat. I recommend leaving them for at least a week so they have good flavour.
One more thing. I get a lot of people saying to me – why do you even bother doing this? You only get such a little product from a huge plant – isn’t this wasteful?? True. Like many delicious food things, it takes effort, time and the actual globe artichoke heart is approximately 1% of the plant that you grow. I grow/eat/preserve them because they’re so prolific in their growth (remember they’re related to thistles) and so abundant in their yields that it makes it very worth while. Also it’s just so yum!
*This isn’t compulsory, we just happen to have lots of these jars so are using them.