Fresh artichoke hearts: worth the trouble?

by admin on April 25, 2007 · 17 comments

During our last spring in San Francisco, Elizabeth and I ate steamed artichokes almost every night. It wasn’t a conscious thing, but it was as if we knew that, in leaving California, we weren’t going to have them this good again. (We were right.) I can still smell that tiny kitchen on Steiner Street and can still see through its windows out onto Alamo Square. When I do, it’s usually artichokes that come to mind.

Elizabeth’s such a master of the steam-with-dipping-sauce route that we haven’t really explored other ways of using the artichoke at home. Brys and I have been doing that for this week’s root source, in which we’re looking at the standard green globe artichoke.

Using a fresh artichoke just for the heart and bottom requires a lot of yanking, trimming and scraping. In order to get the most meat, you have to carefully work the base into a torch shape. It’s a lot of work, and it got us wondering: Are there good alternatives to fresh artichoke hearts?

To find out, we tested various brands of canned, jarred and frozen artichoke hearts.

Canned artichoke hearts (several brands)

Color: Straw gold to pale goldenrod
Smell: Earthy, stemmy, like an artichoke but with a slight hint of fizz
Texture: Consistently limp, sodden.
Taste: Raw, it was okay. Mild but flat, not astringent.

Verdict: In a pinch, canned artichoke hearts would work thinly sliced in a salad. Several attempts to roast them all failed. Even drained and squeezed dry, they came out of a 450F oven unbrowned, just hot versions of their limp selves.

Jarred, marinated artichoke hearts (several brands)

Color: Pale yellow to seaweed green
Smell: Vinegary, like generic Italian dressing
Texture: Like a real artichoke, with a softer heart and firmer bottom
Taste: Like anything else marinated in Italian dressing, but with a chemical, tinny taste. They all seemed to use the same marinating formula, though several of the brands had a strange shrimp-like flavor. In a word: disgusting.

Verdict: None of the jarred artichokes we tried were good enough to buy again. Better to buy canned, frozen or fresh and marinate your own.

Frozen artichoke hearts (Bird’s Eye)

Color: Light to grassy green, like an actual artichoke heart
Smell: Stemmy, like a trash can in a flower shop (in a good way)
Texture: More like an artichoke than many of the fresh artichokes we used. After thawing them in a saucepan and letting them cool, the wavy top meat was delicate while the bottoms were firm.
Taste: Delicious. Again, better quality than some of the fresh artichoke we bought. Raw, they had that mild sweetness with no astringency. Roasted, they browned well and were indistinguishable in flavor from fresh hearts we roasted alongside. Same situation in a chicken ragout.

Verdict: This was the only brand we could track down in a day. The hearts are frozen as quarters or eighths. While you obviously can’t stuff these (and we haven’t tried them in a soup yet), we’d use them in just about any dish that calls for artichoke hearts.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Shannon April 25, 2007 at 11:44 am

Great post! As someone who doesn’t cook with artichoke hearts frequently, this is very useful information, especially since my instinct would be to go for jarred over frozen. Probably this will get me eating artichokes more.

Mercedes April 25, 2007 at 3:24 pm

What about canned artichoke bottoms? I really dislike any kind of canned/jarred artichoke hearts, but I find artichoke bottoms (such as Roland brand, which more resemble your photo) are pretty good. I usually give them a little simmer in some water to remove any tinny taste.

Steamy Kitchen April 25, 2007 at 9:27 pm

I’m too frugal to buy such a beautiful, heavy vegetable and end up with a 2″ cone that takes 2 bites to finish. I’d rather steam them whole and savor every leaf. Yes, I know in the end I’m eating the same volume of artichoke, but it takes me a good 20 minutes to get through it! I like Fried Baby Artichokes…you can eat the whole thing. Slice thinly and fry in olive oil. I have a great recipe and pic on my site!

MB April 26, 2007 at 5:19 pm

Trader Joe’s has great frozed artichoke hearts.

MB April 26, 2007 at 5:19 pm

Trader Joe’s has great frozen artichoke hearts.

Jerrika May 22, 2007 at 9:32 am

ARTICHOKE HEARTS RULE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

#1ARTICHOKE HEART LOVER May 22, 2007 at 9:35 am

ARTICHOKE HEARTS RULE!!!…BUT where do they comfrom???????

asma chabbi February 4, 2008 at 12:02 pm

Great Post!
I totaly agree with your findings…I would rather not eat them if they are presented from a can or a jar with the marinade. They are soo different and amazing when they are fresh. I have not tried the frozen, but thks for that advice…i will look for them and try them. In my opnion artichoke that are fried or are in a dip are “wasted”! It is a shame to mask it amazing sweetness/tanginess flavor. I use them a lot steamed with a very simple drizle of a vinegrette (=fresh lemon juice, dijon mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper). I also make them in a Moroccan artichoke and sweet pees tagine. It is soo good as it flavors the sauce. for the recipe, e-mail me at asma@moroccanbiscotti.com. Once again theks for the info!!

asma chabbi February 4, 2008 at 12:08 pm

BTW the best way to trim out the leafs and get to the bottoms is to: cut the artichoke close to the area where the meat is located, so that you get rid of all that surplus leafs. then peel off from the top to the botton, just like you would do to peel off an orange. you will then remove all of the interior part and dupm in water with lemon juice (so it does not discolor).

liz carlson July 6, 2008 at 7:42 pm

I quite like Reese’s canned artichoke hearts – not limp, actually fairly firm for a canned item – their hearts of palm are also quite good. They are not brined and can be seasoned as you like.

Melissa W August 27, 2008 at 8:42 am

I say that fresh artichoke hearts are definitely worth the trouble! It’s the ritual — the yanking, trimming and scraping with the teeth. Aaaahhh, almost as good as sucking crab legs!

I stumbled across your blog whilst looking for a way to order fresh artichokes online since the ones we have in Nebraska are so pathetic. I want some big ones, baby! But I digress . . .

Thank you for taking the time to do this research and for publishing it. If I ever get a major craving for hearts without the hassle, I’ll definitely look into frozen. You couldn’t PAY me to eat the jarred or canned ones. I can just tell by looking at them — sacrilege!

Best regards.

Eric September 7, 2008 at 1:44 pm

Canned artichokes just do have any of the fantastic flavour of fresh artichokes. They are simply not worth the bother, even cooked in herbs and spices etc.

Frozen bottoms and hearts are a far better alternative. But fresh, despite the amount of mess (the leaves, the choke!) just simply cannot be beaten for their flavour. It is worth the bother to cook and eat fresh.

Eric September 7, 2008 at 1:45 pm

Soory! I meant canned artichokes just do NOT have …

Maudie Briggs February 19, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Is there a place to buy frozen artichokes online?

L August 31, 2010 at 5:36 pm

How do you roast the frozen ones?

Leave a Comment

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: