Artichokes have a delicate flavor that cannot be compared to other vegetables. The meaty green leaves of the plant have an almost nutty taste while the dainty heart has a slightly sweet flavor. While a whole artichoke may seem intimidating for a first-time cook, the vegetable is rather simple with which to work. First, you must prepare and wash the artichoke. Once ready, you steam the vegetable until the leaves are soft enough to eat.
Place the artichokes on a clean cutting surface. Remove the small leaves around the stem of each artichoke. Remove any discolored leaves. Cut off any thorns on the remaining leaves with kitchen scissors. Chop the last inch from the top of each artichoke with a sharp knife.
Hold each artichoke by the stem so that the body is facing up. Rinse each artichoke in cold water, using your fingers to gently separate the leaves to allow water to run between. Hold each artichoke by the stem so that the body is facing down. Shake the excess water from each artichoke. Cut the stem from each artichoke.
Fill a large pot with a few inches of water. Place the artichokes in a steaming basket and place the basket in the pot. Place the pot over high heat and cover with a lid. Bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Steam the artichokes for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of each vegetable. Remove the artichokes from the pot when the outer leaves pull off with ease.
Pull a leaf from the artichoke to eat the steamed vegetable. Run your teeth over the inside of the leaf to pull the meat away from the fibrous sheet. Discard the stripped leaf. Continue to strip and discard leaves until they become soft enough to eat in entirety.
Sprinkle the artichoke leaves with lemon juice or dip them in butter to complement the vegetable’s flavor. You can also use juices and herbs in the steaming water to gently enhance the artichoke taste.
Leave the stem on each artichoke if you prefer. The stem is edible, although it tends to have a fibrous texture and bitter taste.
Don’t assume your artichoke is done just because a timer goes off. Cooking times for artichokes vary greatly according to the size of the vegetable you’re steaming and according to how many artichokes you steam at one time. The only way to be sure that the vegetable is done is to pull on the outer leaves to see if they come off easily.