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News for Aficionados: Heart of Artichoke Season Is Longer This Year

February 22, 1990|JOAN DRAKE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

According to "Fresh Facts," the weekly newsletter published by the Fresh Produce Council, a locally based trade group, "The 1989-90 artichoke season may go down in history as one of the longest on record. Mild temperatures in the Castroville area have given artichoke growers an unusually long stretch of frost-free weather. It looks like artichokes will be available right through the spring, without the usual break in supply."

To cook artichokes whole, wash each under cold running water, spreading the leaves slightly to give a thorough cleaning. Drain and place the artichoke on its side on a cutting board.

Cut the stem off near the base (Step 1) so the artichoke stands upright evenly. Next, turn the artichoke around and cut off one-fourth to one-third of the top (Step 2).

Snap or cut off any small coarse leaves close to the stem, then snip the thorny tips of the remaining leaves (Step 3) with kitchen shears. To prevent discoloration, rub all the exposed surfaces with a cut lemon (Step 4) or place the artichoke in a bowl of cold water that has a few tablespoons of lemon juice added.

The center of the artichoke may be removed either before or after cooking by spreading the leaves apart (Step 5) until you reach the center cone. Carefully pull out the purple-tipped, prickly leaves, exposing the fuzzy choke.

Scrape out the choke with a serrated spoon (Step 6), then squeeze a little lemon juice over the surface or dip again in the acidified water. Drain, then press the remaining leaves back into shape and cook.

Suggestions for column topics may be sent to Back to Basics, Food Section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.

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