There seems to be a great mystery that lies deep within the heart of the artichoke (which happens to be the tastiest part). Often the vegetable is purchase frozen or canned and sometimes marinated in jars.

But you are missing a good deal of the fleshy goodness by not giving the fresh version of the thorny, flower-like beauty a try.

Fresh artichokes seem to be met with a great amount of resistance, especially in places like Florida where they aren’t grown and aren’t part of the regional cuisine. Perhaps it’s the tiny thorn at the end of each leaf, which have been known to draw blood. The sight of several artichokes in the bin might have you wondering, “what do you do with that?” If in fact you even notice them at all. I always thought of the artichoke as the armadillo of the vegetable world.

The Neglected Vegetable

This often-overlooked vegetable has a buttery, nutty, earthy taste that can easily complement a dish or become the main component. Additionally, artichokes are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. An average-size artichoke is packed with nine grams of fiber and five grams of protein.

Until recently I have only been familiar with the marinated artichoke hearts. I'll grab a jar with the ‘chokes soaked in olive oil' for snacking to add to a salad or pulverize into a dip. The fresh artichoke never caught my eye; remember, it's the armadillo vegetable. But while reading an article on the fitness website I came across “How To Turn a Can of Artichokes Into 5 Protein-Packed Meals.” That prompted a newfound interest in the artichoke as the star of a meal.

Because I am a vegetarian and subscribe to the whole food dynamic, “eating food in its purest form,” I dove into the many facets of the whole artichoke, not just the heart.

Here is what I discovered.

artichoke, vegetable, cabbage
Christin Urso

The Artichoke is Actually a Flower

The artichoke is actually the flower bud of the artichoke plant and a member of the thistle family. They are mostly grown in the Mediterranean and are a staple of the  Mediterranean Diet. The artichoke can be eaten fresh, though a bit bitter. They are best either steamed, boiled, fried, or grilled.

The easiest method and the way to retain the most nutritional value of artichokes is to boil or steam them. Simply cook the same way you would rice; in fact, you can place them in a rice

cooker. Both frying and grilling the artichoke bring out the nutty, buttery flavor, although frying may not be the healthiest.

To clean an artichoke before cooking, trim the stem to less than 1 inch. With kitchen scissors, snip off the tip of each leaf which eliminates the thorn. Loosen the leaves a bit with your fingers by pulling them away from center. This will allow them to cook faster but it still takes about 45 minutes if you cook them on your stove. The rice cooker method will take about half the time.

Eating a whole artichoke is quite a production. Non-vegans would pull off a leaf, dip in melted butter or mayonnaise, then run the underside of the leaf over your teeth to scrape off the delicious, soft flesh. That’s the way they are enjoyed in California, which grows nearly 100 percent of the nation’s artichokes.

Whether you choose to buy whole or stick to the jars or cans, the next time you are at your local market, pick up an artichoke or two. You can be sure you will be enjoying healthy and nutrient-dense food.

Vegan Artichoke and Edamame Salad

  • Prep Time:10 mins
  • Cook Time:5 mins
  • Total Time:15 mins
  • Servings:1
  • Easy


  • 2 cups frozen shelled edamame
  • 2 tbsp plain soy yogurt if you are not vegan use Greek yogurt
  • 15 shelled pistachios
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • clove garlic
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1/2 cup canned artichoke hearts
  • 4 radishes
  • Salt and pepper
  • Step 1

    Defrost edamame.

  • Step 2

    Place yogurt, vinegar, and garlic in a blender and mix well.

  • Step 3

    Pour into a bowl, add pistachios, salt, and pepper to taste. Set aside.

  • Step 4

    Toss edamame, chopped celery, artichoke hearts, and sliced radishes with yogurt dressing.

Want to know more about how to enjoy artichokes? Check out this recipe.