Have you ever worked with an artichoke?  I have to be honest:  I’ve always been intimidated by these prickly, strange-looking vegetables. I love them from the jar or even frozen, but the amount of work it took to get to the heart of one artichoke just doesn’t seem worth my effort.  I am wrong.  Freshly cooked artichokes are not only fun to eat, but incredibly tasty!

To prepare an artichoke, cut off a bit of the top and stem, then trim the prickly bits off the leaves.  Find out how to cook and eat an artichoke at Simply Recipes.com

One day, I just dove into the kitchen with my bag of artichokes, determined to get it right and tackle my fears. After doing a bit of trimming (1 inch off the steam, and about 1/4 off the top, then trim the thorns with scissors from each leaf), which I found to be therapeutic, I rubbed the artichokes with lemon to prevent them from browning. Artichokes react to oxygen VERY quickly, so keep a lemon cut and on hand. Then I placed them in the steamer basket stem side up for 30-35 minutes. The result: tender, soft artichokes.

Artichokes are mainly known for their meat, called the “heart,” but if you just skip down to this part, you are missing the more entertaining part of the vegetable – the leaves! Peel back each leaf – one by one and dip the white tip in a sauce. Many people use butter, or a cream sauce. Then, scrap the meat off with your top front teeth and move on to the next one. As you move closer to the “heart,”, the leaves become meatier and sweeter. It’s fun and a great appetizer or snack! You can’t eat these too quickly either, so it’s good for practicing conscious eating. Besides, everyone likes to play with their food!

Once you get to the “heart” you have to remove the fuzzy stuff around it, then you are free to add these hearts to pizza, pasta or salads.  I like to chop them up and add to my a delicious Mediterranean salad of Black-Eyed peas, tomato, cucumber, and olives. So good!

Not only are artichokes fun to eat, but my goodness are they packed with nutrients and healthy benefits! In fact, there are 13 Health Benefits that you will gladly enjoy as a side dish when you eat an artichoke! From aiding inflammatory bowel disease to protecting your skin; find out all the benefits of the artichoke and some recipes in this amazing article.

So if you are used to the jarred, canned or frozen artichoke hearts, try to cook this uniquely fabulous vegetable while it is in season.  You’ll be glad you did!  (and if I have not convinced you to cook an artichoke yourself,  then take advantage of restaurants with seasonal menus and be sure to order their artichoke specials!) 😉