Description - The globe artichoke is a member of the Composite family, closely related to the thistle. The part we eat is from the immature flower bud. If the buds or "globes" are not harvested, six inch bluish thistle-like flower heads develop. The edible portion of the "globe" is composed of the fleshy bases of the flower bracts and the receptacle to which the bracts are attached, known as the "heart".
Culture - The globe artichoke is not grown commercially in Texas, but some home gardeners along the Texas coast grow it. It is grown from crown divisions of parent plants. The divisions are planted in rows five feet apart with at least three feet between plants. First harvest occurs approximately one year after planting.
Availability - Commercially produced in California, fresh globe artichokes are commonly found on the market all year with peak supply and highest quality from March through May.
Selection - Select globes that are dark green, heavy for their size and free of blemishes. The globe should be tight and compact. Avoid those that are beginning to open.
Storage - Good quality globe artichokes can be stored in the refrigerator for about two weeks without loss of quality. Highest quality is maintained by storing near 32o F. with over 90 percent relative humidity. Wash and place globe artichokes in a plastic bag and refrigerate immediately to preserve quality.
Nutrition Information - Artichokes are a good source of potassium and one large artichoke contains 25 percent of the RDA for folacin. The calorie content of artichokes varies according to size and length of storage. A large artichoke contains approximately 58 calories.
Preparation - Artichoke preparation is not a thorny problem at all. To prepare whole artichokes, trim off the stem so it's even with the base of the artichoke and remove the small, tough leaves surrounding it. You may also wish to trim the thorny tips from the remaining leaves. Stand artichokes upright in a large kettle or saucepan and add water to a depth of about three inches. Fresh lemon or lime juice may be added to prevent discoloration during cooking. Cover and cook until a leaf can be easily pulled from the artichoke, 30 to 45 minutes depending on size. Drain upside down. The fuzzy inedible center to each artichoke can be removed either before or after cooking, but is easier done following cooking. To remove, spread the leaves apart carefully after cooking to keep the leaves intact. Pull out the light green and purple tinged cone which exposes the hairy choke. Using a spoon, scrape it out, revealing the prized bottom, or heart.
Microwave Instructions - Trim artichokes close to base so it will stand. Snap off small lower leaves. Rinse. Brush with lemon juice. Wrap in plastic wrap or place in 8" x 8" backing dish with 1/4 cup water; cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high until lower leaves can be pulled off and base pierces easily. Microwave one artichoke four to five minutes and four artichokes 9 - 14 minutes.