I'm going to apologize for my lack of typing as I have some serious tendinitis in my left hand.

Often considered a garden pest and removed with vigour, thistles are a bit of a sleeper in the beauty department. Their thatch of thorny foliage gets all the attention but left on their own to grow, their fragile blossoms are as delicately fragrant as their leaves and stems are harsh and hardy.  They come in an array of pinks and purples.

Artichokes, one of my favourite things to eat, are a member of the thistle family.  You can see the resemblance below.  I wouldn't give you a cent for marinated artichokes in the jar, I don't know why I don't like them but I don't.  Perhaps they use a seasoning I can't tolerate.  Tarragon for example.  Also, there is a popular hot artichoke dip made using these artichokes, I believe Olive Garden had it at one time.  I don't like that either.  If you have tried these two products and do not like them, I assure you unadulterated artichokes will not disappoint you.

The artichoke is actually the flower bud of the Cynara thistle.

Artichokes may sound exotic and complicated to eat but, trust me, if I can do it anyone can.  They take a minimum of preparation and the rest is done in a pot of water.  

Trim approximately one inch off the top of the artichoke.
Cut off stem and remove tough outer leaves.
Using scissors, trim the top off the remaining leaves.  
Once you're hooked on the heart, you might want to 
cook the stem then peel and eat that too.

Boil in salted water for 20-40 minutes or until tender.
Some people add lemon, bay leaves and garlic to the water

While the artichoke is cooking, decide what dipping sauce you wish to use.  Me?  I use melted butter to which I add cracked peppercorns, a bit of salt and the juice of one lemon.  Some people use mayo, or Green Goddess salad dressing.  Once your artichoke is tender, drain it upside down.

When you peel off an outer leave, it looks like this.

Dip the base of the leave in your dip

And scrape the tender meat off with your teeth.
Don't worry, the tender part of the leaf
comes away easily.
Discard the rest of the leaf in a bowl.
The further into the artichoke you get,
the larger the edible area of the leaf.

Once the tougher outer leaves are gone,
you come to the more tender, lighter coloured leaves.
You can continue to eat these if you wish.
I'm too impatient.

Once the leaves are gone, you will come to the 'choke'.
This is the immature blossom of the flower.
You do not want to eat it.
It is easily scooped out from the base of the artichoke.
Do that now.

This is what the choke looks like once removed.

Now you are left with the foodgasmic heart.

It is tender and mild and delicious.
Cut it up and dip it into whatever sauce you're using.
You'll wish you had made more at this point.

If tattooing where my thing, and it isn't, I would seriously consider a thistle.  Both delicate and beautiful, thorny and harsh it is a contradiction in nature to which I can relate.  Stylized renderings of the thistle abound in Scotland where it is their national symbol and appears on heraldic badges.

The Scottish thistle represents 
independence, strength, protection and healing.



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