Artichokes are the edible immature flowers of a cultivated thistle. There are more than 50 varieties of globe artichokes grown around the world. They possess a distinctly sweet, nutty flavor and are popular in French, Italian, and Spanish cuisine. Look for unblemished artichokes that are tightly closed and vibrant in color. Don't be intimidated by artichokes -- they're easy to cut, peel, and cook in just a few steps. We'll show you how.
How to Choose & Store Artichokes
Use these tips to select and store artichokes:
- The peak season for artichokes lasts from March to May.
- Look for artichokes with tight leaf formation and a deep green color. They should seem heavy for their size and the leaves should squeak when squeezed together. Avoid artichokes that are dry-looking or have split leaves.
- Store unwashed artichokes in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Tip: Generally, the smaller the artichoke, the more tender it will be. However, plump, round-looking artichokes tend to have a larger heart, which is the sweetest part of the artichoke.
How to Prepare Whole Artichokes
Step 1: Wash the artichokes
Wash artichokes just before cooking. If you wash artichokes before storing, the moisture could cause them to spoil more rapidly.
Step 2: Slice off the stem end of each artichoke
Cut off and discard the end of the stem. Or remove the entire stem at the base if you plan to serve the artichokes standing upright.
Step 3: Remove outer leaves
Peel off the outer set of leaves closest to the stem.
Step 4: Remove the top from each artichoke
If you are stuffing the artichokes or simply want to remove the majority of the prickly leaf tips for safer eating, trim the top off of each artichoke. To do this, use a sharp, sturdy knife to cut off about 1 inch from the pointed top of each artichoke.
Step 6: Boil or steam the artichokes
To boil artichokes:
- Fill a large stainless-steel or enameled pot with lightly salted water; bring to boiling.
- Add artichokes and return water to boiling.
- Reduce heat; simmer, covered, for about 20 to 30 minutes or until you can easily pull out a leaf from the center of an artichoke.
To steam artichokes:
- Fill a large stainless-steel or enameled pot with 1 inch of water.
- Place a steamer basket inside the pot.
- Bring the water to boiling.
- Using tongs, place artichokes, stem side down, in the steamer basket.
- Reduce heat to simmering, cover the pot, and allow artichokes to steam about 20 to 25 minutes or until you can easily pull out a leaf from the center of artichoke.
Tip: Be sure to use a stainless-steel, enameled, or other nonreactive pot to cook artichokes to prevent discoloration or off flavors.
Step 7: Peel the artichokes
To eat a whole cooked artichoke: Break off each leaf one at a time; dip the leaf into melted butter, mayonnaise, or some other sauce and draw the base of the leaf through your teeth to remove the tender portion. After all the leaves have been removed, scrape off the inedible prickly "choke" to expose the inner artichoke heart. The heart is now ready to cut into pieces and enjoy.
To use the cooked artichoke heart in a recipe: Peel leaves from artichokes. Scrape off the inedible prickly "choke" to expose the heart. Cut the heart in half or as directed in a recipe.