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Baby California Artichokes

In America artichokes found a perfect home in the Mediterranean-like climate and soil of California's central coast, specifically Castroville, the Artichoke Capital of the World.

Artichokes range in size from babies the size of eggs, to large ones as big as softballs. Baby artichokes are not immature - just small because they grow near the bottom of the plant, in the shade. Mediterranean (and American) cooks love them because they are so easy to prepare and are completely edible.

This delicious member of the thistle family was cultivated more than a thousand years ago in North Africa. From there the artichoke moved across the sea and found favor in Sicily, Naples, Florence, and then France.

Baby artichokes are available year-round but you'll find them in greater supply during the spring months - March, April and May. They are mature and ready to eat. These walnut to jumbo egg sized artichokes are almost completely edible and they cook in only minutes.

Baby artichokes are sold loose, in plastic bags or in handy trays. Choose artichokes that are firm and heavy for their size. Select artichokes that are consistent in size - that way they'll cook more evenly. Plan on at least 4 to 6 per serving, depending on size.

Keep artichokes moist and cold. If you buy them in bulk, tuck them in a plastic bag, sprinkle with water, seal the bag and keep in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to a week before cooking. Artichokes already in bags or plastic trays can go right into the crisper drawer. Here's an easy way to clean and prepare baby artichokes:

  • Rinse in cold water and drain.
  • Set out a big bowl of cold water and add 3 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar. You'll be dropping the baby artichokes in the water after each of the steps below, to prevent discoloration.
  • Cut off stem of each artichoke at its base.
  • Peel back and snap off leaves all around the base, starting at the base and working around the artichoke until you reach leaves that are yellow at the top and no longer easy to separate.
  • Cut off top 1/3 of leaves.
  • Cut medium to large baby artichokes in half or quarters. Leave small babies whole.

Now you can cook baby artichokes by boiling, steaming, microwave, grilling, roasting or deep- frying.

Most baby artichokes have no developed fuzz or fibrous leaves in the center and by trimming off the tough outer dark green petals, you have a completely edible artichoke.

Recipes

Baby Artichoke Risotto

Other recipes from Produce Pete.

   

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