Wednesday, 2 July 2008

How to eat an artichoke

The globe artichoke appears exotic but is actually harvested in England from late June.

The fist-sized thistle-like heads of the vegetable are best prepared raw and then cooked, but speedy supper this isn’t.

The freshest artichokes, like flowers, are the more tightly closed, bud-shaped ones that are heavy for their size.

The leaves have a subtle flavour and the heart is a just reward for all the patient preparation - trimming spiky leaves, removing the fibrous choke at its core and boiling until tender (20 to 45 minutes).

Once done, pull off the leaves while still warm and dip in hollandaise, lemon butter, mayonnaise, or vinaigrette.

Jamie Oliver makes a vibrant artichoke, pink grapefruit, frisee and pecorino salad; the River Café, in west London, may well have spaghetti with artichoke pesto on the menu at this time of year, and the Roux brothers go to town and serve upside crowns with chopped smoked salmon, crème fraiche and caviar in the hollow.

Can’t be bothered? Carluccio’s ( sells jars of chargrilled artichokes in olive oil which add instant class to an antipasto of deli meats, pasta or salad.

It’s been said that artichokes have a way of making wines taste sweeter. So choose very dry wines with high acidity. Go British with Ridgeview Bloomsbury Merret 2004, from West Sussex (£19.99, Waitrose). It’s a pared down, dry fizz with lively citrus fruit and a toasty note.

Castroville, in California, is the self-proclaimed world, hmm, heart of artichokes. The small town hosts an annual artichoke festival and has a restaurant, the Giant Artichoke, shaped like an oversized artichoke that serves the local speciality steamed, sautéed, french-fried, pickled, poached, and so on.

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