When I was a kid and my mom would go out of town, my dad would make special dinners- the kind of thing that either she didn’t like, or that she considered too messy. Artichokes were sometimes on the menu for these meals. And, funnily, I don’t remember anything else on the menu those nights, that was the whole meal- just artichokes, dipped in melted butter.
Daddy would cook them in the pressure cooker, spread out newspapers on the top of the portable dishwasher in the middle of the kitchen, melt butter in a tiny pan on the stove top (it wasn’t before microwaves were invented, but it was before we had one) and we’d all stand around, ripping leaves off, dunking them in butter and scraping the flesh off with our teeth.
Once we got down to the chokes, the feathery tiny leaves that stick in your throat, my dad would trim them with a paring knife and distribute the pieces of heart fairly. Fairness in heart distribution was a big issue.
It’s the kind of thing that if you don’t have a childhood memory of it, you probably don’t eat. They are a bit of a pain to make, and eat, and dispose of, as well as looking intimidating in the produce section. However, they are so good- rich in their own right plus extra good with the butter…. Can I suggest that you create a good memory of it? right now?
To cook- trim off the bottom stem, and the bottom row of leaves- these are tough anyway, and take forever to cook.
Place in boiling water. I sometimes throw in a garlic clove, but not always. Boil until a knife goes into the stem end easily, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, melt some butter (aren’t those some of the most beautiful words in the English language? right up there with “you look so much prettier without make-up” and “I’ve folded all the laundry”)
To eat, you pluck off the leaves, dunk in butter, then scrape off the soft stuff from the insides of the leaves with your teeth.
The closer you get to the center, the more “soft stuff” there is- once the tops of the leaves turn purplish, you can bite off the bottom 1/3rd of the leaf.
Once you get to the stuff that looks like chick feathers, trim that off, and you have the heart- distribute it fairly. Sop it in the rest of the butter and enjoy.
I have tried to grow artichokes here in zone 5, and it is possible, although they don’t overwinter here. In warmer places, they are perennial, and produce more buds every year. I have read directions on the interwebs about pulling the roots at the end of the season, and storing them in the basement, the way people do with dahlias. I’ll try that this fall with the plant I have growing in the basement under lights.