There are three varieties of artichoke – the Globe, the Jerusalem and the Chinese artichoke.
The most common of which is the ‘Globe’.
The globe artichoke is in fact, an unopened flower bud of a perennial of the thistle group of the sunflower family and is believed to be a native of the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands.
If the bud is allowed to open, it blossoms as a brilliant violet-blue flower about 7 inches in diameter.
Artichokes are available all year round, but peek in spring and autumn.
The artichoke resembles a large green ball of scales (petals) that get smaller and tenderer toward the vegetables centre.
Although I’ve regularly seen artichokes in many grocery stores, most Australians would be unfamiliar with their preparation – whereas most Europeans cook them regularly.
Whole Globe Artichokes are prepared for cooking by removing all but 5-10mm of the stem, and cutting away the top third of the artichoke.
Any tough or pointy outer leaves can be pulled off. You should also squeeze some lemon juice on the artichoke as it can turn brown quickly after being cut.
Then, the artichoke is boiled in salted water until tender, which takes approximately 30 minutes.
I once knew a farmer who was selling the immature baby artichokes. I sautéed them in butter for just a few minutes, and they turned out a lot like broccoli.
Baby globe artichokes could also be dressed with vinaigrette and eaten raw in salads.
Artichokes go beautifully with tomato, parmesan cheese, and eggs.
However, they’re a little hard to match with wine, as they contain a bitter chemical called ‘cynarin’. Everything you eat or drink afterwards tastes sweet.