By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Oct 29, 2009 at 9:01 AM

October is the third annual Dining Month on All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delicious features, chef profiles, unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2009."

If ever a vegetable were to have a cult-like following, it would be the artichoke. It’s true: lovers of this big thistle plant are emphatic about it, whether the "heart" is chopped and served on pizza and in hot dips or the entire plant is hard boiled and devoured.

The latter form of consumption -- boiling the whole plant and then plucking and eating the leaves as well as the tender heart -- is a fun, hands-on vegetable eating experience. Each leaf is individually pulled from the plant, dipped in butter or a creamy sauce, and then dragged between the teeth to get the meat.

"The journey is truly part of the artichoke-eating process," says Milwaukee’s Amanda Brentwood, a self-described "foodie" who is in the process of writing a vegetarian cookbook.

But the artichoke isn’t all meat and heart. There are prickly parts and fuzzy hairs that eaters avoid. "It’s one of those foods that takes some commitment to consume, but it’s so worth it," says Brentwood.

Many centures ago, artichokes were cultivated in Sicily, Italy, and today, the majority are grown in California. The artichoke is high in fiber, potassium, calcium and iron, and it's good for the bladder, liver and gallbladder. Also, it helps to "clean" the blood.

Cooking whole artichokes at home is simple -- just boil in a pot of water -- but they are also available in a can which makes adding them to dishes even easier.

Many local restaurants have appetizers or entrees made with artichokes on their menus, too. Here is a list of some great artichoke eats, and add others via the Talkback feature.

Artichoke à la mode at Pizza Man
1800 E. North Ave., (414) 272-1745

The artichoke à la mode pizza has a thin crust topped with cheese, artichokes, cream cheese, tomatoes and fresh garlic.

Artichoke dip at Nessun Dorma
2778 N. Weil St., (414) 264-8466

This creamy, garlicky artichoke spread is served warm, topped with melted fontinella and comes with grilled Tuscan bread.

Artichoke ravioli at Louise’s
801 N. Jefferson St., (414) 273-4224

Louise’s artichoke ravioli includes handmade ravioli filled with Ricotta cheese, pancettas, Roma tomatoes, fresh sage and artichokes. It’s served in a Sherry wine sauce.

Classic artichoke melt at Comet Cafe
1947 N. Farwell Ave., (414) 273-7677

This sandwich features a large, chewy roll stuffed with artichoke hearts, red onion, baby spinach and mayo. It’s topped with provolone cheese and broiled. A similar sandwich is available at Comet’s sister cafe, Fuel, 818 E. Center St., but it’s called the cheesy toasted artichoke sandwich.

Roasted portobello and artichoke at Smyth
500 W. Florida Ave., (414) 374-4766

This appetizer includes marinated and roasted portobello mushrooms topped with artichoke hearts and cheddar cheese.

Spinach artichoke gratinee at Balistreri’s
6501 W. Bluemound Rd., (414) 258-9881

This dish features spinach and artichokes in a garlic cream sauce. It's mixed with five cheeses and baked until the top is golden brown.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.