Get to the heart of an artichoke by following these tips.
Artichokes are the edible immature flowers of a cultivated thistle. There are two crops a year, one in the spring and another in early fall. An artichoke should be harvested and eaten only in the bloom of its youth. Look for unblemished artichokes that are tightly closed and vibrant in color -- lime-green or bright green and purple. Look at the stem end. The scar at the base where it was cut will tell you how fresh it is. Since fresher is better, plan to cook artichokes soon after purchasing them.
1. Wash the artichokes thoroughly before using them to remove any sand or dirt that is lodged between the leaves. To prepare the artichokes, turn them upside down and give them a good rap or two on the counter to make the leaves open up more easily.
2. For each artichoke, start at the base and tear or snap off the outside leaves one by one; discard. Handle the leaves carefully so that you don't jab yourself on the pointed barbs at the end of each leaf.
3. When all the outer leaves have been peeled away, you'll find a tightly closed cone of purple-tipped, pale green leaves. Remove these thin leaves; discard.
4. Using a sharp knife, cut the stem off close to the base. Slice the artichoke heart in half. Cut out the fuzzy choke (the thistly center of the artichoke); discard. Slice each half into quarters. Place artichoke pieces into a large bowl of cool water mixed with a little lemon juice. Repeat with remaining artichokes.