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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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For week of Nov. 26:

Concentrate on helping your garden stay comfortable during these frosty nights – and clean up all those leaves!

* Irrigate frost-tender plants such as citrus in the late afternoon. That extra soil moisture increases temperatures around the plant a few degrees, just enough to prevent frost damage. The exception are succulents; too much water before frost can cause them to freeze.

* Cover sensitive plants before the sun goes down. Use cloth sheets or frost cloths, not plastic sheeting, to hold in warmth. Make sure to remove covers in the morning.

* Use fall leaves as mulch around shrubs and vegetables. Mulch acts as a blanket and keeps roots warmer.

* Stop dead-heading; let rose hips form on bushes to prompt dormancy.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location – and definitely indoors overnight. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they’ll bloom again next December.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Plant spring bulbs. Don’t forget the tulips chilling in the refrigerator. Daffodils can be planted without pre-chilling.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers and plant such spring bloomers as sweet peas, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Plant trees and shrubs. They’ll benefit from fall and winter rains while establishing their roots.

* Set out cool-weather annuals such as pansies and snapdragons.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins now. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb.

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