Organic artichokes, on the other hand, were $3.99. These green globes were different shapes and sizes, and the outer leaves were split and covered with brown spots (see above). In other words, they were ugly – and twice as expensive as the non-organics.
Organic or regular? Spend four bucks or two? Beauty or purity? My conundrum is a perfect example of the difficult decisions many of us make during every trip to the store. Do we try to save money and buy conventionally-grown food? Or do we spend a bit more and ignore the flaws, for good food that’s not doused with fertilizers and sprayed with pesticides? What if we’re broke and we don’t really have a choice?
I was feeling flush, so I decided to go with the gnarly organic artichoke. After I peeled the outer leaves off and trimmed off the top, it looked pretty again.
After a five minute cook in the microwave, the artichoke was ready to eat. That’s when I was glad I bought the pricy choke. The flavor was creamy and sweet, with none of the bitterness we’ve sometimes encountered in conventionally-grown varieties.
The fastest, easiest way to steam an artichoke
Cooking an artichoke in the microwave preserves more of its pretty green color than boiling, and it’s super-fast, too. Here’s how to do it:
Wash the artichoke thoroughly in a bowl of warm water, spreading the leaves a little to get any hidden dirt out. Rinse well. If needed, slice off a little of the stem so it will sit flat. Pull off the measley little leaves around the stem, and cut off the top half-inch or so with your sharp knife. I also like to cut off the sharp thorny tips of the leaves with kitchen scissors, but that’s optional. Dunk the artichoke in a bowl of water to which you’ve added a squeeze of fresh lemon juice (or 1 teaspoon of bottled lemon juice); this will help the artichoke stay nice and green and not discolor. If you don’t have any lemon juice on hand, you can substitute a little white or cider vinegar, or just skip this step.
Put 2 tablespoons of hot water in a microwave-safe casserole dish – the smallest size you have that the artichoke will fit in. Set the artichoke on its base and cover with the lid. Microwave on high for about 5 minutes. Let it cool, still covered, for about five minutes. Remove the lid and test one of the leaves. If it comes off easily, it’s done. If not, cook it on high for another 60 to 90 seconds. When the artichoke is done, serve it right away. If you like, you can accompany it with a squeeze of fresh lemon or a dish of melted butter. After you’ve pulled off and enjoyed the bottom part of all the leaves, you can scrape off the downy “choke” in the center with a sharp knife and eat the artichoke heart. I usually cut the artichoke heart in eighths and serve the little wedges on toothpicks when we’ve finished the artichoke leaves.
If you can relate to my organic/non-organic dilemma, the Daily Green recently updated its list of the Dirty Dozen, twelve fruits and vegetables to eat organic due to the high pesticide levels in their traditionally-grown form.
Artichokes didn’t make the list, which includes:
- Imported Nectarines
- Imported Grapes
- Sweet bell peppers
I printed the list and tucked it in my wallet so I can make an informed decision at the grocery store, and I’ll still try to buy those good, gnarly organic foods whenever I can.
How about you – have you experienced a similar quandry and had to choose between high-priced, sometimes-gnarly organics and cheaper, flawless traditional foods? Where do you draw the line? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.