I used to think artichokes were strictly Mediterranean. It’s true they’re native to northern Africa where they grow wild, and southern Europe, but it turns out we can grow globe artichokes in the Pacific Northwest.
Maybe not commercially like they do in California, but I have to tell you there is a mini-artichoke orchard in the corner of my backyard and more appear every year. The artichokes’ sage-green spiked leaves are statuesque along the fence, living architecture. Attention to preparing each artichoke is required before steaming, and be forewarned: consumption is a slow exquisite journey. After cooking, each leaf must be peeled off its choke, dipped in lemon butter, scraped across the teeth for just a smidge, a molecule says my friend Peg, of nourishment. After you’ve repeated that about fifty times its succulent centerpiece is revealed, finally, and you enjoy a few hearty bites.
There are fancy ways to prepare artichokes. I’ve never been able to go there, though with a hefty crop this year maybe it’s time. I love the laid-back experience of deconstructing and eating the whole thing bit by bit dipped in lemony garlicky butter.
Not just garden ornamentals, though they are that, steam these babies, slow down for a while and savor their delicious Mediterranean vibe. My drumming buddies consumed a few of these last night and can attest favorably to their tranquil satisfying tempo.
With a sharp knife, slice off top 1 inch of the artichoke.
Trim spikey tip off leaves with a pair of scissors (or, skip this step).
Rub each prepped artichoke with lemon.
Place in a large steamer, or any large pan with a couple of inches of water.
Simmer with lid on for 45 – 55 minutes depending on size.
Artichokes are done when stem is fork tender.
OK to steam artichokes hours or a day ahead and reheat.
Melt some butter along with a smashed clove of garlic, let it sizzle for a minute or two, squeeze in the juice of one lemon. Get comfortable, peel off a leaf, dip it in the lemon garlic butter and have a savory nip. Have another and another, separate the feathers from the center and indulge in a few hefty bites at the heart of the artichoke. Plant artichokes in late summer for a small crop next year and more after that. Mulched in the fall, they survive and self-propagate. If you compost one might appear in an unexpected corner. Either way they’re welcome.