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.
Choke back your fears and roll up your sleeves because we're here to show you how to cook artichokes and how to eat them. It's super easy and will totally impress your friends. To start, make sure you have a sharp knife. Cut off the stem at the base and one inch from the tip. Notice some sharp leaf tips, cut those about a half inch from each leaf tip. Stand your artichokes in a pan with water about half way of the side of your artichoke. Next, squeeze a lemon half over your artichokes. Bring to a boil and cook covered for 35 minutes until the leaves pull out easily. Now starts the fun part, eating. First, you can pluck out the leaves and dip them in lemony butter. Scrape the meat of your leaf between your teeth for a delightful savory bite. The best part, you can keep eating the leaves until you notice they're not as meaty. Next comes the real treat, the heart. Use a spoon to scrape up the fuzzy, prickly choke to get to the heart, and that's it. You are now qualified to cook any artichokes, any all time you want.