Photo. California Artichoke Advisory Board.

My first encounter with this complicated vegetable came well into my 20’s. Ours was a basic peas, carrots, corn kind of family.

It was at a small roadside restaurant called “Spuds” in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Its success came with simplicity. They only served 2 things; baked potatoes, with all kinds of toppings, and steamed artichokes.

It quickly became a favorite lunch spot. The potatoes were a full meal, but we came back for the artichokes, which were a ritual.

I didn’t order the artichoke until I’d observed folks at work at surrounding tables.

arti-anatomyIt was a fascinating process, removing the thorny outer leaves, dipping them in molten butter, scraping the “meat” out with your teeth, and progressing to the much desired heart at the center, which also took a bit of work to uncover.

It is not for the timid, or for folks who are in a hurry. It is the polar opposite of fast food.

The only equivalent for me was the way we harvested the edible parts of those Maryland blue crabs, another time consuming, painstaking eating ritual which I’d seen since childhood. But again, so worth the effort.

First mentioned by Homer in the 8th century BC, the artichoke emerged as a garden plant in the Mediterranean. Today, nearly 100 percent of the crop here in the US comes from California.

Interesting to note that at full maturity, it blooms a beautiful purple flower that renders the plant inedible.

As I dipped into my second batch of artichoke- spinach dip this holiday, I thought of the ritual, and missed it a bit.

There is a can of artichoke hearts in my pantry right now.

I just can’t bring myself to open it.

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95 Responses to Artichoke

  1. LauraBelle says:

    I love artichokes, but I almost never cook them. I guess I just never think about it.

  2. eathealthyonanybudget says:

    I love artichokes too and “discovered them in my 20s after growing up in a household where peas, carrots and broad beans were the regular veg on the menu – I guess that what came frozen in 80s Britain! Until recently I ate canned artichokes pretty much every day – I’ll put them in or on anything – but I’ve pulled in the purse strings while I am looking for my next job, so I can’t afford to do that at the moment. I have a can in the pantry that I am saving for a special occasion, and hoping they might be cheap to buy fresh when they come into season – when is artichoke season?!?

  3. foguth says:

    I have a can of artichoke hearts in my pantry, too πŸ˜‰ When we lived farther North, we grew them in the garden. Alas, that has proven to be impossible to do in Florida. One thing I don’t understand is why people only eat the bud – in my opinion, the stem is just as tasty. Unfortunately, they generally are not sold with stems

    • It’s a bit odd for me, I only bought them whole and steamed them a few times…it is nice to find them on a menu. How nice that you grew them ! πŸŒ… Thanks, Jeanne.

  4. Elyse says:

    Oh, I love them too. My favorite vegetable, in fact. Wonderful however, wherever they are — it’s my favorite topping for pizza.

    But the best way, also discovered in my 20s, is just how you described them. Julia Child has a wonderful lemon butter sauce that is the perfect accompaniment. But really, anything will do.

    My mouth is watering!

  5. I love fresh artichokes. They are a ritual of love.😊

  6. Sue Vincent says:

    It is odd how some things just do leave that impression. I had to write about artichokes and my first encounter too πŸ™‚

  7. Now I want an Artichoke. At least its not fattening.

  8. These are a veggie I have never tried to grow Van.. My first encounter with them was when I was abroad on holiday.. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ They are tasty when prepared correctly.. πŸ™‚
    I hope you had a lovely Christmas Van.. πŸ™‚ Wishing you a Wonderful Happy New Year..
    Love and Blessings
    Sue xxx

  9. C.E.Robinson says:

    Van, the dip sounds delicious! That could be a new ritual, making it! The canned artichoke hearts not the same! Don’t remember many food related rituals. Need to think about that! πŸ’›Christine

  10. Erika Kind says:

    I don’t know if artichokes and I ever become friends… lol!

  11. J.D. Riso says:

    Artichokes are one of the weirdest vegetables. But they taste good.

  12. Artichokes are wonderful. You can enjoy them in so many ways. πŸ™‚

  13. George says:

    I began enjoying artichokes much later in life and wish I would have found them earlier. I enjoy them now in different ways, especially marinated and in salads.

  14. Artichokes were a treat when I was a kid. I remember how delicious the meat was after it had soaked up some butter.

  15. My favorite dip for steamed artichoke is mayo mixed with a bit of balsamic vinegar and ground pepper – so yum!

  16. Just Plain Ol' Vic says:

    I love me some artichokes!

  17. I only tried scraping that leafy part once, years ago, and didn’t like it. However….those artichoke hearts on a certain sub sure do make it amazing!!!

  18. Lady G says:

    What a coincidence! I was just listening to a chef talk about dipping these in an aioli sauce! Yum! BTW, love the pic! I’ve never seen them in growing.

  19. Hi Van – I have never had the pleasure of the artichoke – I had no idea the process of “dismembering” was so lobster-like. I must confess, I am a tiny bit curious, but probably not enough to break out of peas-and-carrots mode.

  20. TanGental says:

    It took mum years to grow them, both Jerusalem and Globe but she did and we loved them, just as you described. I think giving up her adored artichoke plants hurt as much as anything when she left.

  21. Lovely little thorny delicacies!

  22. joey says:

    My friend Tori (RIP) was from California, and was my introduction to many new and exciting foods. She steamed artichokes and dipped them in butter, and I had never had JUST the artichoke, cooked like that. I still love them like that. When I do them, The Mister will eat it, but complain about the work the entire time. I also usually finish uncovering his crab meat, too, so you know, he’s not a foodie. lol πŸ™‚ I seldom prepare them. I ate them more when I was single.

    • Laughing about the crab. Many crab vendors also had steamed shrimp. It was my choice as a kid. I always cut my fingers on the crab shells. As an adult, I made the effort (but still nicked my skin a bit). πŸ¦€

  23. Hi friend
    To me it’s to much work for the payback. Hope you well. Do me a huge favor, read Throw Back. I’m falling into a black place, I read it over and it sounds like a kids wrote it. I’m taken two dedications early brain pills. I don’t know when to quit.

  24. lbeth1950 says:

    I put hem in my flower beds.

  25. Yum! I love artichokes and get them to grow in my garden (though not as big as the California variety). I let the tiny ones flower and savor the others πŸ˜€

  26. I love this description and memory! Lovely Van xxx

  27. When I used to live in San Diego, I made artichokes all the time. Simple steamed with butter. I wonder if I can find good ones in Massachusetts this time of year. Feeling inspired to look for sure. Thanks for the inspiration! πŸ™‚

  28. I’ve only tried my hand at fresh artichokes once (blame it on youth and inexperience). It’s not something I’m likely to try again. πŸ˜€ They’re fine — as long as someone else cooks them. Happy New Year. Hugs.

  29. Van, I LOVE artichokes! The anticipation of getting to the heart thrills me every time I eat one. You must try artichokes with melted cheese. Oh YUM! Totally out of this world delicious! πŸ™‚ ❀

  30. Deb says:

    I’ve never had an artichoke, as a child I didn’t like the name so of course I wouldn’t like it! πŸ˜‰ But you make me want to try one now, as soon as I set aside some time. πŸ™‚

  31. A nice narrative. I’m not much fond of artichokes, but I enjoyed this virtual treat… πŸ™‚

  32. Nurse Kelly says:

    I’ve eaten artichokes the way you describe only a handful of times, and it really is a culinary experience! I have photos of artichoke crops in CA from a recent trip out there as well. And when I lived in Florida, I went “fishing” for blue crabs off the docks of Tampa Bay with friends all the time. The locals taught me how to tie chicken necks to strings to lure the crabs in. One had to be quick with the net to catch them! We even made a blue crab marinara sauce together, although I remember it was so much work for so little crab! But I agree, both are delicacies and well worth the effort. Wish you all the very best in 2017, Van… (Dorothy, my friend.) xoxo

  33. dgkaye says:

    I love artichokes. I love them fire roasted and dipping in some tasty sauce. But I don’t like to be the ones making them, fiddling with thorns and such. Always better when someone else makes them. πŸ™‚

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  35. Enjoyed your post and will be sharing it on my blog this Thursday. Thanks!

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  37. Jelka says:

    I enjoyed this post but I do not enjoy artichokes 😝 you almost make me wanna try them again.

  38. maleekagazula says:

    artichokes kind of remind me of asparagus, in like texture/taste

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