Peeling an Artichoke: Prickles, Poetry, and How to Eat This Strange Vegetable

Artichoke Head in Charcoal - Susannah Blaxill.jpeg

Who, when asked what her favorite foods are, answers “artichoke??”

Me, that’s who. I’m an odd duck.

I love them. Not the canned, chewy variety, but whole, fresh artichokes, steamed and dipped in lemon-y  ghee.


I know, I know, you think I’m crazy, or you have no idea what I’m talking about with this crazy vegetable.

They’re strange, mysterious to decipher, layered, complex, and unusual.

Precisely why I love them.

Today I’m here to share with you how to master cooking and eating a delicious steamed artichoke… served with a side of poetry.

When I was twenty, I wrote a poem about artichokes. (Again with the weirdness, right?!)

You can read about their poetic side. And then you can make and eat one.

‘Peeling an Artichoke’

(Oct 2002, by @kindredseekers)


The artichoke  

is a green glowing bulb. 

I plop it on your plate. 

It is a little hard to handle. 

The steam is graceful 

rising up and curving 

like a line from Verdi 

sung upwards, 

or a ring of women in white, 


Arm yourself with vegetable accessories: 

a little porcelain dish 

filled with hot liquid gold, 

and a crisp lemon wedge 

that squirts 


Stir it with your fork tines. 

This whole dance, 

I realize, 

is quite high-maintenance. 

I like that somehow. 

I realize too 

it makes the build-up more intense. 

Savor each slow stroke, 

the peeling away of layers. 

The outside  

can be prickly 

making the insides 

hard to get at. 

But once you master it 

it lets you in 

without  the sting. 

It needs to trust you. 

Peel green petal meat, 

slide it on your teeth, 

silky nuggets, 


like it ought to be. 

And then you’ll find  

after gentle mining 

beneath all those prickles  

and petals, 

a tender center 

with the texture of pearls 

like sweet flesh of flowers. 

Take it in your hands 

and to your lips, 

handle with care 

my artichoke heart. 

How to Eat an Artichoke:

  1. Buy the whole bulb from the produce section of your grocery. Go for green and healthy; avoid drying, browning, or frost bitten.

  2. Rinse the bulb well, or better yet, let it soak in a bowl to release any dirt hiding in the leaves. Trim the stem off right to the base of the bulb. Trim the prickles by cutting the tip off each leaf with a scissors. Slice the top half-inch or so of the whole bulb right off with a knife to remove the top cluster of prickles. 

  3. Rest your bulb in a steamer basket in a large pot filled with a couple inches of water. Cover, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a low simmer. Your artichoke will likely take at least 45 minutes to steam. It is ready when you can remove an interior leaf easily from the bulb.

  4. Prepare a small dish of melted butter or ghee. Slice a lemon and squeeze into your gold liquid.

  5. Plate and serve with your dipping sauce. Peel each leaf off, dip the bottom into your sauce, and slide only the base on your teeth to get the meat. When you get to the heart, things get a little more complicated. You’ll need to trim off any dark parts, as well as remove the “hair” from the top. The good news is, with a butter knife, you can scrape or separate the hairy top from the “bowl” of the heart meat quite easily. Get some visual help here. Once you have the tender green saucer alone, you can dip and eat this as well. It's tender and delicious!

So, branch out, try a delicious new vegetable that’s also good for you. And… come on. Really kind of sexy when you think about it.

Illustration by Susannah Blaxill