QUESTION: Are artichoke leaves poisonous? What parts of the artichoke can I eat? -Paul D.
ANSWER: Most of the artichoke is edible, including the stem, the inside of the leaves (the outside of the leaves are sharp and fibrous), and the heart deep inside at the core. As you eat the lower leaves off of a cooked artichoke, you can peel the fibrous part off of the stem, revealing just the soft tasty part of the stem. The only part you can’t eat is the hairy choke inside, and the sharp, fibrous outer portion of the leaves. The choke is not poisonous, nor is the tough part of the leaves, but it is a choking hazard, and quite aptly named.
Arturo Carvajal, a doctor from Miami, was served a whole artichoke at a restaurant in 2010 and, not knowing the correct method of eating an artichoke, somehow managed to eat every part of the vegetable to the dismay of his stomach and bowels. He sued the restaurant for failing to explain the proper method of consuming the vegetable and for “disability, disfigurement, mental anguish,” and “loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life.”
Eating an artichoke is pretty simple. First, you peel off a petal. Then, scrape off the tender portion at the tip with your teeth and discard the rest of the petal. Repeat this process for each leaf until you make your way to the tender heart, which is also edible. The remaining parts of the artichoke, the outer portion of the leaves, the hairy stuff at the bottom (called the choke), and the stem, should never, under any circumstances, be eaten. No parts of the vegetable are poisonous, but attempting to eat an entire artichoke can have serious consequences.
The stems of artichokes are most definitely edible. Many Italian recipes, such as carciofi alla Romana, leave a good inches of stem peeled, but intact, on the heart of the vegetable, and may even include a further couple of inches of the stem pith sliced off and cooked together with the rest of the vegetable. Only the choke, the fibrous outer layer of the stem, and part of the leaves does not come off easily when scraped, are not edible. Cutting the stem off right at the base of the flower head is a waste of the delicious artichoke flavour and texture.
R osie says
Can I see a picture of the choke ?
John A says
The question was “are artichoke leaves poisonous” and your response described the head and flower of the artichoke, not the leaves. The “petals” that you pull off and dip into butter are the calyx that protects the eventual flower, not leaves. Obviously they are not poisonous. The leaves are the long, spiky fronds that grow from the stem, that look like cardoons. I have a lot of perennial artichoke plants that are covered in those long leaves, I chop them off and compost them when they get too large and I had the same question, but unfortunately you haven’t answered it.
Lynne Taciak says
Thank you for clarifying John.
Janet Greig says
so… can the leaf of an artichoke be substituted for cardoons in Italian cooking? or Alice WAters has recipes for cardoons in her Chez Panisse VEGETABLES cookbook.
John A says
Janet- Yes, the large leaf-stalks on the artichoke are absolutely edible and depending on your palate, delicious. Packed full of fiber. The feathery leaves that line the edges are sliced off and discarded (composted) leaving the cardoon-like stalk. That rib has thick fibers running end to end, much like stalks of celery and they need to be peeled off with a good vegetable peeler from the top and bottom. They have a fairly pronounced bitter flavor which you either like and preserve, or try to diminish. You should boil them in salted water for a few minutes then drain and discard the water to remove some of the bitterness. Having done so, they still retain some mild bitterness, which I enjoy. This is not a delicate vegetable like broccoli or asparagus where you need to time your cooking carefully to avoid turning them into overcooked mush, these “cardoons” are very firm, almost tough and there is little risk of overcooking them. Because they are very firm and still fibrous even after a few minutes of boiling, they then need to be slow cooked. I make heavily spiced Indian style masalas (curries) with them, I make tomato/ onion/ garlic type stews like ratatouille, etc. They are excellent diced in a vegetable soup (minestrone etc) because they retain their firm texture and add a nice mildly bitter counterpoint to the otherwise sweet vegetables. You could make a nice puree/ cream soup but you’d have to aggressively push it through a strainer to get out any fibers- like a cream of celery soup. To braise them you can use an Instant Pot on high simmer mode or the stove top, I find about 30 minutes covered at a low simmer with some moisture (tomatoes, broth, coconut milk, water) etc leaves them with an al dente texture but sufficiently broken down that they’re not chewy or stringy at all. I cut them into chunks no larger than about 3/4 of an inch prior to any cooking. Because of their firm texture you could also hot water bath can them provided that you have properly acidified the liquid that they’re in (below pH 4.6) in accordance with USDA guidelines. I haven’t done it, but I plan to. I have a large garden full of vegetables and greens that I grow intentionally, but these unintentional “cardoons” that I used to chop off and compost are one of my favorites.
You should never eat anything with the word choke in it.
Ken Seehart says
I tried eating the entire plant, and can confirm it’s completely non-toxic. It had some interesting effects though. There’s some purple and green strands in my hair, my eyelids are much larger than before, and there are these interesting spiky protrusions all over my skin. My wife says she likes my new texture, so I think it’s fine.
But yeah, completely safe to eat.
Hilarious! Thanks for the levity! I don’t want that spiky texture on the outside or the inside, but the soft parts of the artichoke are welcome to my palate and my digestion.
I think the Artichoke board could market that, it’s definitely the best advisement I’ve ever heard.
Melodie L OBryan says
Are the plants ‘dog-traffic tolerant’? Meaning, are the plants too delicate for my Vizsla dogs to tromp around and still survive? Curious if need to plant in protection from the doggies. Also wonder if the plants are non-toxic to them even though safe for humans?
For a little while after eating artichoke, milk tastes sweet.
supposedly this is due to an acid called cynarin.
Can you eat the actual green leaves that are growing on the stalk?
The plants would survive, but the dogs might not due to the pokiness of the artichoke. It should be called artipoke
Elly Mohr says
I’m speaking about the feathery leaves on the stalk of the plant, not the petals of the flowering head that is sold in stores.They are not toxic but I’m going to experiment with ways to cook them. What I have tasted when cooked are a lot like the actual artichoke.