G is for Good, Green, and Sometimes, Gnarly, and How To Cook a Perfect Artichoke

Organic artichoke at Happy Simple Living blog
Last week, regular artichokes were $1.99 at my local grocery store. The conventionally-grown chokes were blemish-free, uniformly sized and overall quite appealing – both visually and financially.

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.

Trim an artichoke at Happy Simple Living blog

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.

Steamed artichoke at Happy Simple Living blog

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:

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Imported Nectarines
  7. Imported Grapes
  8. Sweet bell peppers
  9. Potatoes
  10. Blueberries
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale

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.


The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of 15 books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

6 thoughts on “G is for Good, Green, and Sometimes, Gnarly, and How To Cook a Perfect Artichoke”

  1. Great tips for one of my favorite foods! Prices and choke quality should continue to improve with Spring and the Central California harvests- do you have additional artichoke recipe suggestions?

  2. If I can’t find most of them I usually go without. A few exceptions being potatoes, lettuce, occasionally grapes, and kale, but I didn’t realize kale had made this list, that’s depressing as these 3 I can’t get organic around here.

  3. Thanks sooo much for the list! I often wondered what food was dosed the most. We eat a lot of organics as they just seem to taste better, but now I can make an informed decision about which is really best for safety. Thanks again. V

  4. Yes, I, too, try to go with the ‘dirty dozen’ list – and its sidekick, the 12 pretty ok ones. Last week, I was thrilled to find organic cabbage and carrots both cheaper than conventional at my healthfood grocers! Must confess to being pretty rigid re the ‘dirtiest’ on the list – will go without rather than buy them for the most part…just don’t need all those chemicals – and, yes, organic can often be yummier!

  5. Hi, I have never had artichoke before but I will look out for it now so thanks. Does it taste like any other vegetable? I live in the UK so I am guessing that we don’t grow them here but I will be checking at my local farmers’ market next week.


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