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Growing artichokes tough, eating is tasty

By on March 29, 2018 in Columnist with 0 Comments

Bonnie OrrBy Bonnie Orr

In NCW, Artichokes are grown in containers, mostly for their foliage and, with luck, perhaps a few purple flowers.

This plant thrives in cooler summers. Maximum temperatures for happy artichokes are in the 80s with much higher humidity than is present during our hot summer days.

It takes about 150 days for a plant to produce the edible flower buds. Most plants must be four to five years old and about three feet across to produce enough artichokes to make it worthwhile to harvest.

In our USDA Zone 7, the plants must be carefully mulched for the winter.

So — buy artichokes at the grocery or select prepared hearts in bottles and cans.

There is an alternative, a cousin called a cardoon. This thistle also produces decorative purple flowers but they are not palatable. So the leaf stalks are eaten instead.

These celery-like stalks taste very much like artichokes and are more frost hardy. I grew them in my East Wenatchee garden for a number of years.

Artichokes are a lot of trouble to prepare but well worth the effort, especially when they have been baked with lemon and olive oil.

Artichokes and cardoons can be used interchangeably. Cut cardoon into two-inch lengths and boil in salted water with a bit of lemon juice for about 20 minutes so they are tender enough to add to a recipe.

The artichoke is a flower bud. When you buy a fresh artichoke, select a globe that is so tightly closed that you cannot put your finger between the leaves (bracts). If the globe has started to loosen, it means that the bud is overripe because the thistle flower is developing.

The thistle flower is the white, stiff fiber that sits on top of the “heart” at the base of the artichoke. The heart is the tasty goal of messing with this vegetable.

I think baking the artichokes creates the best flavor and versatility.

To bake the artichoke, cut the top half off the globe and discard it. Then cut the bottom part in half lengthwise and sprinkle with salt and lemon juice. Place face down on an oiled baking sheet. Cover with foil. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until the leaves easily pull off the globe.

 If you purchased canned or bottled artichokes, check the consistency of the product before you begin cooking with it. Some of the commercial producers grind up the entire artichoke and not just the hearts, and the result is an unusable, stringy mass.

The boiled or steamed artichoke is best for hors d’oeuvres. Most commonly the bracts (leaves) are torn from the flower head, the base dipped in butter or mayonnaise, and then the bottom 1 1/2 inches are scraped off the bracts with the teeth.

If this is your preferred way to sample artichokes, try making your own mayonnaise.

Mayonnaise

Makes1 1/4 cups; 4 minutes

Only use a fresh, organic egg from a chicken you personally know or from a local farmer at the farmers market. This will keep in the refrigerator for about a week. It can also be used as a base for salad dressing.

1 egg

1 cup vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt/white pepper

Break the egg into a blender or food processor. At low speed, gently drizzle in the oil and mustard until it emulsifies and turns white. Stir in salt and lemon juice.

Artichoke/Cardoon Cheese dish

Serves 4; 30 minutes

1 cup chicken stock

1 cup white wine

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons lemon zest

2 cups prepared artichokes or cardoons

1 cup grated Swiss cheese

Salt/freshly ground black pepper

Bring the chicken stock and wine and bay leaf to a simmer.

Add the vegetables and cornstarch.

Cook gently for 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.

Stir in the cheese.

Serve immediately.

Artichoke/Cardoon Pasta

Serves 4; 40 minutes

The onions and pasta can be cooked ahead of time.

4 cups cooked bows or other shaped pasta

2 cups thinly sliced Walla Walla sweet onion

2 tablespoons oil

2 cups chopped spinach

1 14 oz. can of artichoke hearts, drained. Or 2 cups prepared cardoon stalks.

1/2 cup chopped, roasted hazelnuts or almonds

In a large saucepan, cook the onions in the oil slowly for about 20 minutes until they are golden brown.

Stir in the remainder of the ingredients.

Cook over low heat until the spinach is wilted and everything is heated through.

Serve over the cooked pasta.

Bonnie Orr — the dirt diva — cooks and gardens in East Wenatchee.

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