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The Omaha artichoke can become rather rotund when it grows to maturity, reaching up to six inches in diameter. It has a striking appearance, with bold sharply tapered, thick violet blushed green leaves. Although similar in color to the Anzio artichoke, it is more globular in shape. The Omaha artichoke is known for being less bitter and tanic than most artichoke varieties. When cooked, its flesh has a dense meaty consistency and rich flavors of butter, chestnut, wheat and caramel.
Omaha artichokes are available year-round with a peak season in the spring.
Omaha artichokes, botanical name Cyrnara scolymus, are the immature flower heads of an herbaceous perennial thistle plant and member of the Aster, Asteraceae family, also known as the Compositae family. Even after artichokes are separated from their parent plant they are still living organs in which respiration processes become the main function because their nutrient supply has been cut off. In short, artichokes can be very vulnerable and temperamental if they are stored in poor ventilation, resulting in fermentation if CO2 levels and atmospheric oxygen supplies are inadequate.
The Omaha artichoke is substantial enough that it can be used for several applications. It can be steamed and braised. It should be partially steamed just to infuse it with enough moisture prior to roasting or grilling. Though the leaves are edible, the artichoke can be trimmed down to the heart and bottom. The artichoke hearts should be stored in a brine solution of water, lemon juice and sea salt prior to cooking to prevent the flesh from browning. Cooked artichoke hearts can be pureed into sauces and soups. They can also be used in salads, as a pizza topping or pasta ingredient. Complimentary pairings include citrus, garlic, olives and olive oil, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, chiles, bacon, proscuitto, poultry, truffles, morels, and woodsy mushrooms, cheeses such as feta, chevre and pecorino, pistachios, pine nuts, pepitas, red wine and balsamic vinegar and salad greens such as mesclin, arugula and butter lettuce.
Artichokes were first cultivated in the Mediterranean region thousands of years ago, specifically along the Iberian peninsula and in the northern region of Africa, called Maghreb, where they are still found growing in their wild state. The Omaha artichoke is one of several varieties that until recently was invisible in the culinary landscape outside of Europe. The Green Globe has dominated the American artichoke population since the 1920's. However, along with the Omaha, several varieties that were once only commonly found in Italy and France, including the Anzio, Fiesole and Lyon are now cultivated in California for farmers markets and domestic specialty markets.
Recipes that include Omaha Artichokes. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Cooking For Engineers||Grilled Artichokes|
|Pinch My Salt||Creamy Roasted Cauliflower and Artichoke Soup|