If you've been to Italy or Spain, or maybe you're a fan of the said cuisines, then you may have come across one of the most visually fascinating vegetables in the world, the Artichoke. I am admittedly more of a Japanese food lover, but I never was choosy when it came to cooking shows on the Food Network and Mario Batali of Molto Mario introduced me to this veggie wonder. Savory dips, on pizzas, stuffed, stewed, grilled, deep-fried or baked for antipasti are just some of the popular ways to enjoy artichokes. Personally, I just simply saute them in garlic butter and lots of lemon juice to go with my balsamic glazed pork tenderloin medallions as a side. 

Never heard of artichokes before? Then here's the low-down on this wonderful vegetable. An artichoke is, as a matter of fact the bud of a plant from the thistle family and at full maturity, the plant grows to a width of about six feet and a height of three to four. If not harvested from the plant, the bud will eventually blossom into a beautiful, blue-violet flower, which is not edible.

The bud contains the heart, which is the delightful, meaty core of the Artichoke, It is topped by a fuzzy center called the choke, which is surrounded by rows of petals, that protects the artichoke heart. With their tiny thorns, the artichoke’s petals reveal their thistle heritage. The thorns aren’t that much of a problem if handled with care and they do soften in cooking.

When you prepare an artichoke, you scrap the center “choke” (except if you have baby artichokes), but the base of the petals, the center of the stem and the entire heart are completely edible and very easy to cook. It has a unique taste that reminds me slightly of green asparagus with a mild nutty flavor. Check out Bamba Bistro in Paranaque and try their artichoke crostini to find out for yourself, I heard it's delicious.

So far I have only ever had canned, marinated artichoke hearts cooked at home which is available in our leading supermarkets by the way, but upon a ton of research I've listed down some places where they've been spotted fresh: 
  • Rustan's Makati Branch
  • Landmark
  • Unimart
  • Santi's Deli
  • Salcedo Flea Market
I am already thinking of ways to check out each location on the list and find out if they indeed have this hard to find vegetable in the metro. I've only seen it fresh up close once in my life, at Wholefoods, in California. The price was so steep and I was already way over budget on my grocery shopping so I had to pass up on the chance of finally taking home fresh artichokes. 

How about you, have you had artichokes before? Do you like them as well? Do you know where to find them fresh in Manila?

Article published on March 21, 2015