Artichokes – Look great, taste great plus recipes is all about growing this wonderful, architectural plant that brings a stylish look to your garden, and the buds from this special plant taste fantastic as well.
Planted my Artichoke seeds a few weeks ago, and right now they are sitting on my spare bedroom window, in their little peat pots, and each with two leaves and growing very well. They took their time, and need warmth and gentle watering to get them going under cover, but the amount of sunshine that comes into that bedroom has helped. Oh, for a greenhouse!! But that will come one day soon, I hope.
The type of Artichokes I have chosen have all come from Sarah Raven. The first one, Artichoke ‘Gros Vert de Laon’ is a traditional French variety, mid to late season, with big large hearts which are fat and totally delicious. They are perfect for using in a Vegetable Tempura recipe, and the scales are great for dipping in a variety of sauces. These will grow to 4 – 5 foot, and need about 3 feet between plants. Sarah Raven tells us to cut them down to the ground in summer, and they may only produce small artichokes in the first year, but cut these and eat them small, don’t allow them to grow to full size in this first year, as it will hamper the development of the plant.
In the second year, the harvest of these big hearts will be at it’s best in July, but they can be harvested from May to October. For these artichokes to be at their best for eating, pick them when the scales are tightly closed. Just carefully cut underneath the globe, and place in boiling water for 40-45 minutes until tender.
The other Artichoke that I have planted is this beautiful Artichoke, Violet de Provence. This is a beautiful plant, and an early globe artichoke. They are ready to eat in late May, and if picked small, the buds have no choke. If the plant is cut down to the ground (leaves and all), after you have used all the buds, it will grow again and you will have a second crop 6 – 8 weeks later. So if you plant theses two varieties, you will be able to eat Artichokes for most of the summer. Sarah also uses these plants for flower arranging, and sprays them silver to use at Christmas.
Follow the same instructions given for Gros Vert de Laon for Violet de Provence re. the harvesting. Don’t allow the buds to grow full size in the first year, harvest when small and enjoy eating them. Then, in the second year, the harvest will be most prolific in July.
Both these types of Artichokes need a well-drained rich soil, and lots of full sun. They can look stunning in a simple, large container, but remember to water them well. And, if your garden is prone to strong winds, they plants may need some help and a stake to keep them upright.
Sarah Raven also suggests that to keep something happening within the Artichoke beds year round, plant Alliums in and around the artichokes, followed by dahlias, and as one group of artichokes is cut to the ground, there is always some interest until the big plants grow for a second time. So that’s what I will do. It should be an interesting flower bed!
Now for some recipes: I have loads of recipes for Artichokes, as I wanted to enjoy the fruits of all of our labours, but here are some just to get you going.
Artichokes Braised with Garlic & Thyme Recipe
This Artichokes Braised with Garlic & Thyme Recipe was taken from Gourmet magazine. Food editor Marie Ruggiero learned this method of cooking artichokes from a close friend of hers Betty Alfenito, a "prop stylish and cook extraordinaire". She says "We love this wonderful pan sauce it yields, as well as the way it infuses the artichokes with a subtle hint of garlic." I can't wait to try it with my own Artichokes.
- 6 medium artichokes (approx. 1/2 1b (225g) each)
- 18 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
- 1/4 (60ml) cup good olive oil
- 8 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 head garlic, cloves separated and left unpeeled
- 1 cup (240ml) water
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- Crusty bread
- Artichokes can be cleaned and trimmed for up to 8 hours ahead, and kept in a bowl of water in the fridge.
- Working with one artichoke at a time, cut off top inch of artichoke and gently pull open centre.
- Scoop out sharp leaves and fuzzy choke from centre with melon-ball cutter or a spoon. Trim bottom 1/4 inch of stem (if present), keeping stem attached, and peel stem.
- Put artichoke in a large bowl of water. Repeat with remaining artichokes.
- Remove Artichokes from water and push 3 parsley sprigs into centre of each.
- Take a big pan, about 11 inches (30 cm) and wide enough to hold artichokes in a single layer.
- Heat 1/4 cup (60ml) of olive oil in a pan over a moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then add artichokes, thyme sprigs, garlic, 1/4 cup (60ml) water, pepper and 1/2 tsp salt. Cover pot and braise artichokes, turning occasionally, until artichokes are browned in spots and bases are tender when pierced with a knife, about 35 minutes.
- Transfer Artichokes, thyme and garlic to a platter. Add remaining 3/4 (180ml) cup water to pot and deglaze by boiling over high heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits for one minute.
- Pour pan juices (they will be dark) into a small bowl and stir in extra-virgin olive oil and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. Squeeze pulp from 2 of the garlic cloves into juices and mash into sauce with a fork.
- Divide artichokes and remaining garlic cloves among 6 plates and drizzle with sauce. Garlic cloves can be peeled and spread on crusty bread.
So, Artichokes not only taste great but they add a certain architectural style to your garden, whether planted in the Kitchen Garden or are used in the flower garden. Watch our for lots of Artichoke Recipes which will I will be writing up over the next few weeks. I hope you enjoy eating these unusual vegetables.