Listen to your artichoke heart: Helpful hints how to handle, prepare, eat versatile vegetable

Posted: Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Despite knowing my way around the kitchen from a very early age, cooking and eating fresh artichokes was not something that I experienced until adulthood.

I knew artichoke hearts were available from a can, could be found among the frozen foods at the supermarket and that a marinated version could be spooned out of those little square-shaped jars.

I wanted, of course, to try my hand at preparing fresh artichokes, but every spring, as artichokes were emerging at their glorious peak, I still viewed them as intimidating green orbs of prickly, fuzzy trouble. Not only did I not know how to choose or cook artichokes, but also I was rather clueless on the subject of eating them.

So, I had to learn to look for fresh artichokes that "squeaked" after having their leaves rubbed (and indication of freshness) and practiced the art of scraping the fleshy part of a freshly steamed artichoke leaf through my teeth.

After eating the part of the leaf that had been dipped in melted butter and seasoned with a few squirts of fresh lemon, I realized that I had never before truly tasted an artichoke.

In spite of their appearance, artichokes really are not very hard to prepare, and eating them for lunch or dinner can be as much of an event as a meal.

I have learned over the years that many people have never fully enjoyed the delectable goodness of a fresh artichoke, because they simply don't know what to do with them. If this sounds familiar, why not make this spring the time to get to the heart of your fears.

After all the rubbing, squeaking, trimming and steaming, you'll have participated in one of the most pleasurable eating occasions of the season.

Once you learn how to eat an artichoke, you'll want to share the knowledge with an uninitiated friend. Two hearts are always better than one, especially in the spring.

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