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Little artichokes are all heart

Recipe: How to make the most of these bonus babies

"Baby" artichokes are just petite full-grown artichokes. They can be used in all kinds of recipes. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

It’s been a great spring for artichokes. In Sacramento gardens, these oversized thistles have been especially productive, pumping out gobs of globes.

But what do you do with all those “baby” artichokes? Preparing these bonus babies takes work, but they’re all heart.

All those baby artichokes are actually fully developed and mostly heart.

These small side buds aren’t actually “baby” artichokes; they’re fully developed, just petite. The good news: Most of them contain little if any choke – those prickly hairs that cover the meaty heart.

An abundance of small artichokes drove me to look for ways to prepare and save them for later. (Italian cooks have been doing this for centuries.) Here are some short cuts:

When cut, artichokes turn black quickly. To keep them green, set up a large bowl of water. Cut a lemon in half. Add the juice of one half lemon to the water. Keep the other lemon half handy for treating the artichokes while trimming.

With every slice, rub the cut surface with the lemon. When finished trimming, drop the artichoke into the lemon water. Keep it there until ready to steam.

With a sharp knife, cut off the stem close to the base. Treat the cut with lemon. Tear off the tough outer leaves, one by one. They’ll snap at the base, keeping the meat attached to the heart.

The outer petals have been removed from this artichoke.

Once the outer leaves are removed, cut the remaining leaves close to the heart. Again, treat the cut with lemon.

Cut the heart in half (if large, in fourths), treating each cut side with a rub of lemon. With a spoon, scoop out any choke. Put cut hearts in lemon water until ready to process.

When working with the individual artichokes, be careful of thorns. Heirloom artichoke varieties in particular have long needles on the end of each petal. Use scissors or a sharp knife to cut off the petal ends first before attempting to pull them off. Your hands will thank you.

Prepared artichoke hearts go into the steamer.

Once the artichoke hearts are cut up, remove them from the lemon water and steam them for 8 to 10 minutes, or until tender when poked with a sharp knife.

The hearts are now ready for any recipe that calls for artichoke hearts. (They can be frozen for later use, too.) Marinate them for salads. Add to chicken breasts or toss with pasta.

My favorite: Fried artichoke hearts. This Italian recipe, from Mark Bittman’s excellent globe-trotting collection, is a lot healthier than those deep-fried State Fair nuggets, but just as satisfying.

Fried artichoke hearts
Adapted from “The Best Recipes in the World” by Mark Bittman (Broadway Books)
Makes 4 servings


Fried artichoke hearts make a great appetizer.
Extra virgin olive oil or neutral oil (corn, vegetable, grapeseed, etc.) or mixture of the two, as needed
Salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup fine bread crumbs
8 artichoke hearts, trimmed and steamed until tender
Lemon wedges for serving

Heat 1 inch of oil in a heavy deep skillet or wide saucepan over medium-high heat.

Season the eggs. Mix together Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.

Oil will be ready when a pinch of bread crumbs sizzles. Dip the artichoke hearts in the beaten egg, then roll in the bread crumbs. Gently add them to the oil one at a time. Fry without crowding, turning as necessary until golden brown, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Drain on paper towels and serve immediately with a wedge of lemon.


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A recipe for preparing delicious meals from the bounty of the garden.


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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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