Globe artichokes are considered a delicacy and have been grown in Southern Europe for many centuries but are less frequently used in New Zealand.
Artichokes contain an unusual organic acid called cynarin, which affects taste and may be the reason why water appears to taste sweet after eating artichokes. The flavour of wine
is similarly altered and many wine experts advise that wine shouldn’t accompany artichokes.
An edible thistle, there are many varieties of globe artichokes whose scale-like petals vary from light to dark green to purple. The edible portion of the plant consists of the flower buds before the flowers come into bloom. Once the flower blooms, the structure changes, becoming very coarse and inedible.
Prone to oxidisation, and thus turning brown once cut, artichokes are often placed in slightly acidified water (using lemon juice or vinegar).
Globe artichokes can be boiled, steamed, roasted or cooked in a pressure cooker. When eating the artichoke leaves, they are typically broken off, dipped into a sauce, then you scrape the meaty part with your teeth and discard the rest of the leaf. Once the choke is removed, the heart is revealed, which is softer and has a more intense flavour than the leaves.
They are often dipped in vinaigrettes, mayonnaise-based or creamy, buttery dips.
While butter, lemon, garlic, mustard and capers all go beautifully with artichokes, they can also be stuffed with minced lamb or pork. This is a popular preparation in the Middle East and North Africa where onion, tomato, pine nuts, raisins, parsley, dill, mint, and spices are added.
Artichoke hearts are often preserved and then made into everything from dips to salads, added to antipasto platters or in omelettes and paella.
Planting occurs in the late winter or early spring, when frosts are over, as the seedlings are frost-tenders. Mild climate areas sometimes have two crops which can be harvested in one season. As perennials, globe artichokes can be grown for several years. Produced only by a handful of growers located in Northern and Central North island.