This spring, we have enjoyed fresh artichokes from the Monastery garden, lots of beautiful artichokes! Having eaten most of my artichokes from a can, I was eager to experience this distinctive vegetable in its unprocessed form.
In so many ways, eating artichokes mirrors Awareness Practice. Both seem to be Life's way of saying, "How badly do you want it?" In the case of the artichoke, Mother Nature gives us encouragements along the way, little tastes of the tender "meat" in the outer leaves as a way to say, "C'mon, keep going...there's more of this the further in you go!" So we keep peeling, tasting, peeling, and tasting. Just as in Practice, we keep peeling away the layers of conditioning and tasting the kind felicity of Life. The sweetness can seem faint at first but gets stronger and stronger the further "in" we go. In Life, as with the artichoke, it's helpful to really want the fruit we are going toward, even as doubting, uncertain questions arise. Am I doing this right? Is there really anything good at the center of all these prickly leaves? Good lord, is it really worth all this effort? As we stay with the experience, the encouragements, and the fun of the adventure, the answer is always a resounding, "YES!"
Fortunately, there is no "canned" version for waking up and ending suffering as there is for eating artichokes. There is no shortcut to the experience of peeling away the layers of conditioning to experience life in center. And, once we fall in love with the whole process, we are eternally grateful for that!
This is just one more gift that food, the Monastery garden, and practicing presence offers. Gratitude abounds.
How To Cook and Eat an Artichoke
Cut off the tips of the petals: If the artichokes have little thorns on the end of the petals, take a kitchen scissors and cut of the thorned tips of all of the petals. This step is mostly for aesthetics as the thorns soften with cooking and pose no threat to the person eating the artichoke.
Slice off the top of the artichoke: Slice about 3/4 inch to an inch off the tip of the artichoke. A serrated bread knife works great for this.
Remove small petals at the base: Pull off any smaller petals towards the base and on the stem.
Cut off excess stem: Cut off excess stem, leaving up to an inch on the artichoke. The stems tend to be more bitter than the rest of the artichoke, but some people like to eat them. Alternatively you can leave the whole long stem on the artichoke; just cut off the very end of the stem, and peel the tough outside layer of the stem with a vegetable peeler.
Rinse the artichokes: Rinse the artichokes in running cold water. While you rinse them, open up the petals a little so that the water does get inside more easily. (This is where it helps to have cut off the thorny tips; it makes the artichoke easier to open without getting poked!)
Steam the artichokes: Place artichokes on top of the steaming basket. Cover the pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 25 to 45 minutes or until the outer leaves can easily be pulled off.
Artichokes may be eaten cold or hot.
Pull off outer petals, one at a time.
Tightly grip the other end of the petal. Place in mouth, dip side down, and pull through teeth to remove soft, pulpy, delicious portion of the petal. Discard remaining petal.
Continue until all of the petals are removed.
With a knife or spoon, scrape out and discard the inedible fuzzy part (called the "choke") covering the artichoke heart. The remaining bottom of the artichoke is the heart.