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Artichoke: grow a showstopper that tastes as good as it looks.

In your garden

Even if we couldn't eat artichokes, we'd include them in the landscape because they're just so gorgeous. In fact, as delicious as the buds are, it's worth leaving a few unharvested: They blossom into giant blue-violet flowers perfect for cutting.

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Plant

GROW from bare-root stock now in Sunset climate zones 8, 9, and 14-24. SPACE them 4 to 6 feet apart, in full sun along the coast and in light shade in regions with hot summers. In zones 3a-7 and 10, grow in spring as an annual, spacing plants 18 inches apart (they may produce artichokes if the season is long enough). In zones 11-13, plant as a fall annual.

Care

WATER thoroughly once a week, after you see new growth developing. FEED once a month with high-nitrogen fertilizer, starting a month after planting.

In your kitchen

The edible part (or heart) of the thistlelike flower is tough until cooked; then, of course, it becomes rich and creamy.

Harvest

CUT off buds (and 11/2 in. of stem) while they're tight. STORE, chilled, up to 1 week.

Prep hearts

SNAP off thick green outer leaves down to yellowish core. HALVE artichokes crosswise; discard thorny tips. TRIM stem to about 1/2 in. and peel tough outer skin from remaining stem. HALVE artichoke lengthwise; scoop out and discard fuzzy, red-tipped choke. PUT hearts in cold water with a little lemon juice and set aside until you're ready to cook.

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Artichoke bruschetta

SERVES 4 TO 6 | 25 MINUTES

Heat 3 tbsp. vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Halve and thinly slice 2 large trimmed artichoke hearts, then cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. kosher salt. Cut 5 slices ciabatta bread in half diagonally. Spread each with ricotta (3/4 cup total). Sprinkle slices with 1/2 tsp. pepper and 2 tsp. lemon zest-Spoon some artichokes onto each slice and top with a bit of thinly sliced basil.

PER SERVING 356 CAL, 29% (l03 CAL.) FROM FAT; 14 G PROTEIN; 12 G FAT (4.0 G SAT.); 53 G CARBO (4.7 G FIBER); 632 MG SODIUM; 17 MG CHOL.

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Chicken halves with artichokes and garlic

SERVES 6 | 11/4 HOURS

This fails between classic roast chicken and a braise. Adding a bit of water to the juices and the garlic creates a sauce to spoon over mashed potatoes.

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 large (4 lb.) chicken, halved, backbone removed

1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt 6 whole garlic cloves with skins on

5 large artichoke hearts (see "Prep Hearts" at left; 31/2 lbs. total), quartered

1 cup unpitted green olives

5 flat-leaf parsley sprigs

1. Preheat oven to 375 [degrees]. Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken all over with salt and lay in hot oil, skin side down. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn chicken over and add 1 cup water, the garlic, and artichokes.

2. Roast chicken in oven, uncovered, until cooked through, about 1 hour. Add olives and parsley.

PER SERVING 454 CAL., 51% (232 CAL.) FROM FAT; 43 G PROTEIN; 26 G FAT (6.3 G SAT.); 13 G CARBO (6.2 G FIBER); 767 MG SODIUM; 327 MG CHOL.

SESAME FRIED ARTICHOKES

Snap off outer leaves from baby artichokes, cut off leafy tips, and trim stems to a point.Fry in 1 in. of 350 [degrees] vegetable oil until golden. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and kosher salt; serve with mayo mixed with sesame oil.

10 MORE WAYS WITH ARTICHOKES: sunset.com/artichokes
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Garden to table
Author:Chai, Julie; Machnak, Amy
Publication:Sunset
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2012
Words:607
Previous Article:January: your northern California guide.
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