A Living Library’s Artful Artichokes Are April’s Meal Of The Month

Borage, Nasturtium, and even Radish plants adorn delicate petals of blue, orange, and pink, all of which share something in common. They can be edible !

Flowers are often sought for their brilliant beauty, with lavish colors and fragrant smells, but not usually for their taste. During April, OMI/Excelsior Branch Living Library & Think Park’s Student Stewards took a deeper look at the bold beauty and taste of an gorgeous flower, the artful artichoke.

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This was a special time in the garden for us, the A.L.L. Teachers, as we love Artichokes. Even more meaningful though, was the importance of this experience for our students, none of whom had ever tried an artichoke in their lives !  

As students set out on an artichoke hunt, they found them growing into all shapes, sizes, and colors. They found them growing in sunny un-manicured lots and in the darkest tree understories. The artichoke is herculean, thriving here in Northern California today, just as it evolved to do in the Mediterranean ecosystem in the 9th century.

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Over the past 1000 years people have made minor variations, but kept the integrity of this flower, as a heart-warming, delicious, meaty food. For this month’s Meal of the Month we decided to showcase the artichoke in all its glory. By keeping the preparation and cooking processes simple, we created a healthy snack that was easy for students to make on their own and bring home to their families.

Students collected loosening artichoke buds by the hand-fulls, (6 artichokes served 10 Stewards). Student Stewards pruned them 4 inches from the base of the flower. The heart and the inner portion of the stem, becomes a melt in your mouth food experience when cooked. Forks were flying at the plate for the last bites, so beware, artichokes may cause sibling rivalry and food fights !

Ingredients:               IMG_1294

-6 medium Artichokes

– ¼ cup Olive Oil

– ¼ cup Balsamic Vinegar

– 1 cup Mayonnaise

– 3 Tbs. dry curry powder mix

After harvesting and thoroughly washing the artichokes, the students used scissors to cut the sharp tips off of each petal. Artichokes are actually from the Thistle family, and can put up a good fight if you are not paying attention while eating. Students then heated water to a boil and steamed the artichokes until the outer leaves fell off easily, (approx 40 minutes).

Drain water and let artichokes cool for 10 minutes. This is where you get to be super creative with dips of your choice. Artichokes taste great in any mix I have ever tried, but these two will be devoured by middle schoolers.

Dip 1) mix equal parts Olive Oil and Balsamic for a simple healthy dressing. or, try:

Dip 2) mix dry curry powder with mayonnaise until evenly mixed. Supplement the curry powder with any flavoring of your choice for a simple smooth and creamy  dip.

IMG_1300Once artichokes are warm to the touch, ply petals off of the flower head, and use your teeth to scrape soft fleshy parts off the bottom portions. If it seems tough and inedible, it isn’t worth eating. As you eat your way towards the center, leaves become more supple.  The small central leaves are pure thistle spike, sometimes termed the “choke”; scoop these aside with a spoon. You have arrived at the holiday hotspot, the heart.

Divide up, dip, and devour! 

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But remember, this food experience is not about the destination, it is all about the journey. Please enjoy this year round California experience, and post your favorite way to Art Up Your Artichoke.

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Post submitted by A Living Library Teacher,  Courtney Calkins.

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