Artichokes: the vegetable version of a pine cone. My thanks to the brave soul who first figured out a prickly artichoke was good to eat. Served warm, room temperature or chilled, I love to put a platter out for guests as I finish cooking dinner. When the leaves are gone and the fuzzy choke is removed, a prize awaits – the artichoke heart. Slice and devour. If you've never cooked one, this post is all about how to buy and cook artichokes.
The official Vegetable of California with nearly year-round available, artichokes are best in spring and fall. They are a good source of potassium, folate, fiber, magnesium, and vitamins C and K, artichokes are packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients.
When shopping, choose plump artichokes that feel heavy for their size with tightly closed petals or leaves. If the artichoke squeaks when squeezed, it’s fresh. If the leaves (called bracts) are brown and splitting, the artichoke is likely past its prime. The exception to this is winter harvest artichokes. They may have light brown scaling on the leaves due to frostbite. Although not as pretty, they still taste good. Once home, keep them refrigerated.
About the Babies
A quick note on “baby” artichokes. They may be called baby because of their petite size, but they are a fully mature artichoke picked from the lower part of the plant. With a little trimming, you can eat the whole thing as the fuzzy center choke has not developed.
How to Prep and Trim
To prep, trim the stem flat to the base. Next, slice off the top quarter to third. Using a serrated knife makes it easier. With kitchen scissors, trim remaining leaf tips of barbs. At this point I rub my artichokes with cut lemon to deter browning, then use the lemons for cooking the artichokes.
Whole fresh artichokes can be boiled, steamed, then grilled if desired. Depending on size, it takes about 30-40 minutes. You can make them ahead and serve them chilled or serve them warm out of the pan. They're done when a leaf from near the center pulls out easily. Another way to test is to insert a thin metal skewer through the heart. See recipe ideas below.
Recipe and Serving Ideas
- Steamed artichokes with Lemon Garlic Dipping Sauce
- How to trim and prepare baby artichokes
- Grilled artichokes
- Steam, split, remove choke and stuff with chicken salad, crab salad, quinoa, etc
How to Cook an Artichoke
- large pot with lid
- 2 large fresh artichokes
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 lemon
- few grinds black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 large sprigs fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried herbs Italian blend, basil, oregano
- To prep artichokes, trim the stem flat to the base. Next, slice off the top quarter to third. Using a serrated knife makes it easier. With kitchen scissors, trim remaining leaf tips of barbs. Rub artichokes with cut lemon to deter browning.
- Place artichokes in a deep pot stem end up. Add a few inches of water. Add the squeezed lemon halves. Cover pot with a tight lid and bring to a boil. Turn down to simmer and cook until a leaf pulls out easily or a thin metal skewer can be inserted through the stem, 35-45 minutes depending on the size of the artichoke. Drain and enjoy warm, or chill for later.