Sunday, April 01, 2007

Getting down to the heart of the matter.
Hubby and I were both born and raised on the central coast of California about 80 miles apart. Unlike Los Angeles and San Francisco - the urban playgrounds most are familiar with in California, this area is known for sleepy towns, ranching and agriculture. A climate filled with sunny warm days and evenings cooled by coastal fog combined with fertile soil make just the right conditions for growing a wide variety of vegetables year round.
While many families made their living growing in the fields, almost every household had a garden of one sort or another. A local favorite - to grow and eat - the artichoke. A member of the thistle family, the artichoke is often misunderstood and overlooked because of it's unusual appearance and sometimes thorns on the leaves. It's a puzzle on how to cook and then consume such an odd thing.
It's a simple as trimming the stem end so the 'choke will stand. Then simply steam for about 20 to 25 minutes - until it's easy to pull off a leaf. We eat them hot, dipping the leaves in mayonnaise, scraping the fleshy pulp from the base of the leaf with our teeth*. Others eat their artichokes cold, dipping in melted butter and lemon juice.
We keep a community bowl on the table as a convenient place to throw the used leaves. Eventually the leaves will become to small to pull, but wait - you are not done. Using a knife, you can scrape away the the tender leaves and fuzzy stuff (a highly technical term) leaving you with the artichoke heart. All the work of pulling and scraping leaves you with a generous portion of flesh to eat as a work-free reward.
When we were growing up, artichokes were served as a vegetable accompaniment to the main meal. These days we have them as the meal - being less concerned with having the '4 Food Groups' represented on our table than our mothers were.
Now that we have moved away from our hometowns, we buy our artichokes at the market, but we do have a couple of plants in our flower bed that we allow to go to flower rather than eat. It's like a little bit of childhood to see those plants growing tall from the kitchen window.






*After nearly 28 years of marriage, tonight we learned that we do not scrape the same. How can this be? I turn the leaf upside down and scrape on my bottom teeth. Hubby leaves his upright and scrapes with the top. Just when we thought we knew everything there was to know about one another.

19 comments:

Susie said...

We love artichokes here too! The funniest artichoke story ever was when we went to a very nice restaurant in Monterey. The table of 3 young men next to us ordered artichokes stating they'd never tried them.
We didn't pay any attention until the waitress came back later and started giggling. They had eaten every single thing. Leaves choke and all!
We still laugh about that one!

Juliann said...

Another artichoke lover here - and isn't it fun to find out that you don't know everything about your spouse? I only recently found out that my husband doesn't like apple pie! keeps us on our toes

Diana said...

I've had artichoke hearts in salads, but never tried cooking the whole thing. Maybe I need to give it a try!

Beth said...

I love artichokes too, but I just checked them out at the store the other day, they were $4 each and not very big! Good grief! but they are yummy. I myself am a top scraper. LOL

What part of Central California are you from? My husband lived in Los Banos for several years when he was growing up.

Quilty Nurse said...

That was so interesting, I'm gonna have to try it. I've only ever had shop-bought artichoke hearts in oil or something, putting them in salads. Once I had a gourmet pizza with them on it. I'd never realised you could eat the whole thing, or how to. Thanks for sharing.

Patti said...

I have loved artichokes since I was a kid! They were always a special treat when I was a child. Now I'll buy one occasionally for myself - no one else here likes them. We always dipped them hot in melted butter.

And I scrape with my top teeth. If I turned the leaf upside down to scrape with my bottom teeth all the melted butter sitting in the "cup" would run out!

Shelina said...

I've never had artichokes. But I have abandoned the four food groups at every meal rule. I'll eat whatever I want, and hopefully eventually all of the food groups will get represented over the course of the day or week.

Screen Door said...

I've got to get out more. I thought they were kind of like mushrooms and came in jars... What about ranch dressing instead of dipping in mayo???? You'll have to talk about the quilt the bowl is sitting on one day.

Rose Marie said...

Many thanks for the tutorial on eating this veg and I can say that I have learned something new today! I've never tried them ... guess it's time to give them a whirl, eh!

Ms. Jan said...

Yum!! We discovered a new way to serve them at a restaurant in Carmel--steam as usual, then finish them on the bbq grill, drizzling with a tiny bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, pepper and garlic salt. No mayo required for these and I guarantee, you will be hooked!! Trust me.
PS Your hubby is wrong. Just plain wrong.

Finn said...

Hi Libby, I'm still chuckling about your difference in artichoke eating...LOL. Such fun. The newly begun quilt is just lovely, and looks like one I'd be expecting you to make.
I also really like the other one that you just are finishing the binding on. It's a fun quilt and the edging really adds a lot.
A belated happy birthday to both of you..*VBS* Sounds like a fabulous day and evening! Hugs, Finn

Conni Lu said...

Artichokes have always been a mystery food to me. The only way that I have eaten them is either in a lettuce salad at an Italian restaurant or in a hot artichoke & cheese dip that is delicious. Thanks for the insight into this food! :)

Mrs. Goodneedle said...

I love artichokes, I eat them like your husband, too. Great post!

paula, the quilter said...

I'll echo Patti on how I eat an artichoke. Here's my funny story:
As a newlywed, I thought I'd cook an extra-special meal. I cooked up 2 artichokes and grilled a couple of t-bone steaks. CarGuy looked at the artichokes and said "What the h**l is this? I'm not eating that!" He at his steak and potato and I ate my steak and 2 artichokes. Next time I I only cooked 1. His reaction? "Where's mine?" He's been eating them ever since. LOL!

Judy said...

Always wondered what they tasted like but never had one so far. I might give it a try now with your instructions but I'd have to go for the melted butter. Yuck, mayo. I can stomach it on a sandwich or burger, but not in my mouth plain. Sorry.

I would think you'd get a better scrap with your bottom teeth!

Dawn said...

Too funny. And I guess you would be appalled that I've never eaten an artichoke - course that comes from me being a midwest flatlander!

Personally I think dripping with butter sounds wonderful!

Rabbit Stitchings said...

The first time I ate a artichoke was after I met my Dh, his mother makes the best stuffed artichokes! They are stuffed with bread crumbs and not sure what else LOL Italian family secret recipe you know, no meat just bread crumbs herbs etc.. How she gets them stuffed in I don't know, lol.. I know she steams them like you and then some how fills them.. you pull off a leaf which has about a 1/8" of this bread crumb mixture all moist stuck to it, dip in butter and scrape it off with your teeth, just as you said :O)... oh my gosh they are good!

How fun you learned something new about your DH and him you :O) after many years together :O)...

meggie said...

I loved this post! I have never seen an artichoke plant, & only ever eaten the tinned variety. My SIL made a wonderful dip with artichoke hearts, but they were tinned ones also.
Thanks for sharing. Laughed about you & hubby. My GOM still surprises me after 41 years!

Nancy said...

You know I've never had an artichoke! but after reading this I think I'll be buying one next time I go to the produce market.