With the vernal equinox and daylight savings giving us warmer temperatures and more hours of sunlight, spring has officially sprung! Flowers are popping up and so are delicious spring vegetables. A vegan my whole life, I was raised in line with macrobiotics, keeping a yin and yang balance through eating whole grains, vegetables, legumes, seaweeds, and fruits. There is a strong focus in macrobiotics on eating only what is in season in your area. Your body and digestion shifts and changes with the adjustment in climate each season. Nature provides the vegetables you need to smoothly make these transitions at exactly these times of the year. The advent of supermarkets means that every kind of fruit and vegetable, culled from all over the world, is available to you night and day. If you want to know what is truly in season, visit your local farmer's market. The colors you see around you should be reflected on your plate!
Many of you are fellow makers and creatives, developing beautiful products and handling all the aspects of running a small business -- maintaining your shop, mailing orders, vending at craft fairs, crunching the numbers. It can be stressful and chaotic, and in those moments you may reach for a candy bar or salty chips to keep you going. When you eat with the seasons your mind is clear and your body is able to maintain its energy more evenly through whole foods.
I put together a perfect spring menu to get you started. For the next three days I will post a new recipe each day so you can create a lovely spring meal by the end of the week! Today we start with the appetizer. Remember to always chew your food well, eat until you are satisfied but not stuffed, and be thankful for all that you have!
The Heart of the Artichoke
1-2 artichokes (make one for a friend!)
Artichokes are in season from March to May, and again briefly in October, lining up perfectly with the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. These two seasons are times of detox for your liver, especially in the spring after a long, cold winter of heavy foods and excess. Artichokes contain nutrients that help your liver in this cleansing process. Many of you know artichokes in two forms -- either pickled to a yellow color and canned, or baked and slathered in butter and breadcrumbs. This recipe cooks them as close to their original state as possible, retaining the nutrients and resulting in a sweet and delicious appetizer before your meal!
Preparing the artichoke: Cut a half inch off the base and remove any small leaves. Using scissors, cut the very tips of any leaves that have a spiky point -- not all artichokes have them, but they sure do hurt when you get poked with them! Using a knife, slice off the top inch of the artichoke, revealing this beautiful pattern of inner leaves.
Rinse the artichoke under water, opening the leaves slightly to make sure the water rinses out any dirt or sand.
Cooking the artichoke: Fill a large pot 2/3 of the way with water and heat until boiling. Place your cleaned artichoke in the pot and cover. Depending on the size of your artichoke it can take shorter or longer to boil. Most are ready within 20-30 mins. Check on it at the 15 minute mark, to make sure it is boiling evenly (if not, turn it in the water to the unboiled side). You will know the artichoke is ready when it is no longer a bright green color, and both the leaves and base are tender. Remove the artichoke using tongs, and let the water drain out from between the leaves before placing on a plate.
Eating the artichoke: Boiled artichokes are most delicious when they're hot. Starting at the base, break off a leaf and look for the half moon shape on the bottom fourth of the leaf where it was connected to the rest of the artichoke. Scrape this area along your top or bottom teeth to remove the tasty flesh. It will have a light, sweet, and tender taste. Repeat with each leaf, working your way up. If you can, compost the discarded leaves to thank nature for this treat. This slow method of eating an artichoke, piece by piece, is the perfect occasion for mindfulness. Take your time with it. Enjoy the moment.
When you get down to the leaves that are translucent and don't yield much flesh, it's time to scrape out the choke and get to the tastiest part, the heart! Pay very close attention to the fuzzy and thin fibers of the choke -- they are not edible, and have the name choke for a very good reason. These spiky fibers can get stuck along your throat. Using a spoon, start at the very edge of the choke and scrape it away, making sure to leave the tender flesh behind.
Once the choke has been scraped away and there are no more fibers you have reached the delicious heart. As you ate the flesh from the leaves you were getting small morsels -- think of the heart as one great big bite of that goodness! You can eat the whole top portion. The base can get a bit fibrous, but feel free to split it open and eat any tender flesh inside as well. One of the most magical things about artichokes, besides their ability to support your liver and stimulate bile production, is that they make everything you eat afterwards taste sweet and delectable. Go ahead and try drinking a glass of water after eating an artichoke. See how the water is now magically sweet? Artichokes contain cynarin, an acid which inhibits the taste buds that detect sweetness. When you take a bite of food or sip of a drink, the cynarin is washed away and your brain perceives the contrast as a rush of sweetness. This makes artichokes perfect to eat as an appetizer before a meal -- they make the main dish and side dishes even more delicious!
See you here tomorrow as we make the main dish and side vegetable! And make sure to comment below and tell me how your artichoke comes out, I would love to hear!