Artichokes can be intimidating. Diving into those prickly leaves can lead to poked fingers and plenty of frustration. This guide shows how to buy, store, trim, and cook artichokes - those thorny delights of spring (and, to a lesser degree, fall).
When Is Artichoke Season?
Most of the commercial artichoke crop in the U.S. is grown in California where the main artichoke harvest happens every spring (March through June). A second, smaller crop grows for a fall harvest.
How to Choose Artichokes
Look for artichokes with closed heads - the leaves should form tight, compact layers. The whole artichoke should be firm and feel heavy for its size. The stem will be brown if it was cut more than a few hours ago, but it shouldn't feel either slimy or dry.
How to Store Artichokes
Keep artichokes loosely wrapped in plastic in the fridge. Fresh artichokes will last up to a week, but like all veggies are best the sooner after harvest they are used.
How to De-Thorn Artichokes
Artichokes are famously thorny – how hungry must the first person to eat an artichoke have been, goes the joke. Yet those thorns are quite easily tamed. Careful eaters can simply use caution. The rest of us can snip the thorns off the leaves before proceeding.
How to Get to the Artichoke Heart
To get to the heart – that meaty center of the artichoke that makes those thorns worth fighting through – see this guide to How to Trim Artichoke Hearts.
How to Trim Baby Artichokes
Baby artichokes are artichokes that actually grow smaller, they aren't simply small or immature versions of larger artichokes. The "choke" – the hairy layer over the heart – isn't nearly as developed as in larger artichokes and is usually fully edible. This makes preparing baby artichokes much easier, per artichoke anyway, than large specimens. See How to Trim Baby Artichokes.
The easiest and more classic way to cook artichokes is by steaming them. Set cleaned/trimmed artichokes in 1/2-inch of salted water with a squeeze or two of lemon juice in it. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until you can easily pull a leaf from the artichoke. (You can also steam artichokes in a microwave.) Let cool a bit and serve warm with melted butter or let cool a lot and serve with mayonnaise or aioli (find great dips for steamed artichokes).
How to Cook Baby Artichokes
Baby artichokes are both easier – no need to worry about the choke – and more of a pain – you need more of them to serve the same number of people – than larger artichokes are. Try one of these delicious recipes if you come across a good haul of baby artichokes: