What Do Artichokes Taste Like? Will You Like Them?
Apr 27, 2020
The humble artichoke is something of a mystery for many people in the US.
Although artichokes are among the most common vegetables of the Mediterranean basin, many people stateside still wonder what artichokes taste like. Some don’t even know how to eat them, let alone cook them. But that mystery ends here.
Artichokes do have a unique taste, but you’ve probably tasted some similar vegetables. Keep reading to find out what they taste like and a few easy ways to cook them to highlight their flavor.
What Are Artichokes and What Does an Artichoke Look Like?
According to Greek mythology, the artichoke was a creation of Zeus himself. When the capricious god became enraged with a woman he had made into a goddess, he expelled her back to earth from Olympus in the form of an artichoke.
If you know the name but can’t picture the vegetable, artichokes are typically green and shaped somewhat like a pine cone.
They’re about the size of an adult’s fist when fully grown, and they have overlapping leaves forming a kind of cabbage-like sprout. The edible portion is the flower before it blooms, and it resembles oversized hops.
They’re native to the Mediterranean area, and their recorded use goes back as far as the 8th century BC. Used extensively in Italian cuisine, the artichoke was eventually introduced to England via Dutch traders from where it was spread throughout the world.
They were brought to Louisiana and California by French and Spanish settlers in the 19th century.
Some varieties have purple petals, and most of the US supply of artichokes are grown in California.
What Do Artichokes Taste Like?
Their flavor is not particularly unique, but they do have some nuances that make them different.
Artichokes have an earthy flavor with herbaceous notes. The petals of the artichoke have a crunchy texture while the heart is much softer and has a more intense flavor. Their hearts are, by far, the most prized part, and they’re sold separated from the rest of the artichoke.
When eaten raw, artichokes retain a much firmer texture and a bitter taste. Cooking both softens the texture and produces a blender flavor making it similar to boiled potatoes.
As for whether you’ll like artichokes or not – they have a similar taste to asparagus and brussels sprouts with a mild nutty flavor. Because of their texture and flavor, people also compare them to celery and celeriac.
Different variants of artichoke have also been described as resembling turnips in flavor.
Overall, the taste is not overpowering, making artichokes an excellent addition to many dishes. It lends itself well to many cooking methods.
A Few Artichoke Recipes
But don’t take anyone’s word for it.
The best way to figure out what they taste like and whether they’re the vegetable for you is to try one yourself. The peak season for artichokes is March through May, and while you can probably get them year-round, it’s best to buy vegetables in a season since you’ll find a better variety.
Buy yourself a few fresh artichokes and try one of these recipes.
Boiling artichokes is probably the simplest way to cook them. They won’t retain their luscious green color regardless of how you cook them.
To prepare them, trim the tips from the outer leaves and slice off the top half-inch to an inch to expose the inside of the flower. You can easily cut the tips of the leaves using kitchen shears.
Bring water to a boil in a pot that’s big enough to fit all your artichokes at once. Also, use enough water to submerge the artichokes. If you don’t have a pot big enough, work in batches rather than leaving some of them exposed.
Once the water starts to boil, reduce it to a simmer and add the artichokes. They should cook for about 30 minutes or until the petals start to separate from the flower easily.
Drain and cool them before serving with the sauce of your choice. When eating, you can pick out each leaf individually and dip it into the sauce. Then, strip the base of the petal with your teeth and discard the touch tip.
When you reach the heart of the artichoke, you’ll find a fuzzy layer called the choke. Scoop out the choke with a spoon and enjoy the artichoke heart.
Pan-frying the artichokes is also an excellent way to enjoy them. It caramelizes some of the sugars present in the artichokes adding an extra layer of flavor and texture.
To prepare this dish, you’ll want to remove most of the petals from the artichokes. When pan-frying, you’ll discard the outer layer of thick petals. Once you reach the pale, inner leaves, cut off the stem, leaving about an inch of it and slice the artichoke in half and then into quarters.
You can scoop out the choke before or after you fry them. Toss the artichoke wedges with olive oil and season to taste.
Heat about three tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and add the artichokes with one cut side facing down. Fry them for about three to five minutes until they’re nicely browned underneath.
Afterward, turn them onto the other side and cook until browned again. Add about ¼-cup of water and cover. Reduce the heat to low and cook them until tender.
Serve the artichokes immediately while warm.
Artichokes don’t do well with dry heat, so oven-roasting and grilling aren’t ideal for them. But – if you steam them a little first, you can have perfect grill marks on the outside and tender artichoke flesh on the inside.
Prep them as you would for boiling. Remove any wilted petals and snip the tips from the remaining ones.
Trim the stems, leaving about an inch. Slice the artichokes in half and rub them with a lemon wedge to prevent oxidation. Using a spoon, remove the fuzzy choke before steaming.
You don’t want artichokes to get overly soggy, so don’t boil them. Instead, cut them in half and use a steamer to cook for about 20 minutes. You don’t need them to be completely soft because you’ll grill them in the end.
Brush the steamed artichokes with olive oil and place them on the grill, flat side down. Grill them covered for a few minutes, and turn them 45 degrees to make perfect grill marks. Leave them covered on a grill another five to ten minutes.
Grilled artichokes pair well with an aioli, remoulade, or other creamy sauce.
It’s About Time You Tried Artichokes
Artichokes are a wonderful vegetable and a staple of Mediterranean cuisine, especially in the spring.
With these three quick and easy ways to enjoy them, you have no excuse. Jarred artichoke hearts will do in a pinch, but they can’t compare to the taste of fresh ones.
If you want to learn about more Mediterranean foods, read some of our other blog posts.
At Lemon and Vine, we use the freshest, all-natural ingredients to craft authentic Greek and Mediterranean dishes. Don’t miss a chance to order out frozen Eggplant Artichoke Triangles! Find our products near you or browse our website to order.