Posted by: cassymuronaka | June 4, 2009

Artichokes galore

artichoke

Less than a month ago I was bitterly complaining about the ongoing snail invasion of my garden, citing my artichoke plant as particularly at risk. Well, the moral of this story is be careful what you wish for because I now have more artichokes than I can possibly use.

Unlike tomatoes, squash, lemons, and cucumbers, which backyard gardeners routinely present to their neighbors, artichokes are a little trickier to gift. Many people don’t know what to do with them.

My mother used to boil whole artichokes – untrimmed sharp leaves and all — and then serve them with a garlicky Russian dressing or an equally pungent lemon butter as a dipping sauce. The idea was to coat the soft leaf ends in the savory liquid and drag the vegetable through your teeth, holding back the good bit. Eventually you pulled off enough leaves to arrive at the feathery choke, which you cut out, and the bottom, which you almost swallowed whole by the time you eventually got to it, because it was just that good.

As I got older, I became aware of the various culinary uses of the artichoke bottom, but really only wanted to seriously consider them when I was ordering a particularly lavish breakfast of Eggs Sardou at Brennan’s Restaurant in either New Orleans or Dallas. Eggs Sardou is essentially Eggs Benedict with substitution of an artichoke bottom for an English muffin, sometimes also adding spinach.

However, I haven’t lived in Louisiana or Texas for eons now, and last year, the neighbor who grows all the zucchini I will ever need in summer, gave me an artichoke plant in return for the mountains of heirloom tomatoes I routinely lay on him in August. This also is the neighbor with whom I conduct a never-ending citrus exchange. I hand off grapefruit to him and he tosses me lemons. Actually, we’re pretty much past any presentation pleasantries now. Both of us just go across the street to the other person’s house and rip fruit off their tree any time we need it.

Because both the artichoke plant and the lemon tree are bursting forth simultaneously, this got me to thinking about Eggs Sardou generously coated with a lemony Hollandaise sauce. However, in order to get to the Eggs Sardou, I first had to figure out how cut out the artichoke bottom.

I would not say that my initial efforts have been a smashing success. While I spent a morning cooking and trimming more than twenty jumbo artichokes, I have filled only third of a ziplock gallon bag with mangled artichoke bottoms, none of which look like anything I ever consumed at the elegant Brennan’s.

On the bright side, my composter is completely replenished with the remainder of those twenty artichokes.

I will probably let the rest of the artichokes to continue to grow on the plant. I will not be losing anything by not picking them. Left alone, the artichokes explode into a vivid purple blossom that literally glows in a late afternoon sun, leaving me with a visual treat, if not a consumable one.

Artichoke plant

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Responses

  1. I got hungry reading this, which is a tribute to your writing. I don’t particularly care for artichokes since my Mom — one of the worst cooks I’ve ever encountered — loved serving us boiled artichokes at least once a week when I grew up with nothing but mayo as a side. I assure you that they were darned unappetizing as a result. Since I left home 40 years ago, I’ve pretty much avoided artichokes but I’m thinking that perhaps it’s time to reconsider after reading your post.

  2. I went gallery hunting in Carmel/Monterey a few years back. I was crushed to discover that the bolsheviks who run the Peninsula have a rule that you have to live there to get your work shown there. The trip was not entirely wasted however. I went over to Castroville and bought 4 artichokes about the size of basketballs, and brought them back in my carryon bag. My original intention was to share with friends, but by the time I got back to the wilds of Flagstaff, I decided I didn’t HAVE any friends worthy of such a trophy, which they probably wouldn’t like anyway. I did mine Greek style, works hot or cold. Last year, I managed to kill my baby tomato plants in just under three weeks, and the growing season here is only about five days anyway, so I guess I’ll have to pass on trying to raise my own artichokes. Although the leaves do look able to repel all forms of wildlife.

  3. Oh, my god. Will they still be harvestable when we’re there? I think you and Manny will do wonderful things with these! (I know I told you our save-the-babies artichoke story already.) We looovvvvvvvvve artichokes!

  4. Wait a minute. I just reread your post, this time paying attention rather than just salivating. You threw out a bunch of artichoke leaves?????? Heresy! I love the two classic methods of prep: 1) peel off the tough outer layer, boil for a long time, serve with melted butter (with or without lemon) for dipping. 2) peel, boil, refrigerate, and serve with mayo (with or without lemon) for dipping. I suspect that’s pretty much all you can do with the leaves, eh? (Not that I don’t adore them.) But the HEARTS….ahhhh!


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