It’s almost spring! That means the snow is melting, the sun is shining and fresh vegetables are peeking out from the ground. One of those readily available vegetables are artichokes. Although their season is short (it lasts from March to May), you can take advantage of this and enjoy artichokes at their best. Although it may seem easier to reach for a can of them from the grocery store or your local deli, they are much less intimidating than they seem. Plus, they taste 100% better when fresh. It may take a little manual labor, but a fresh artichoke is more than worth the effort. When picking an artichoke, look for one with a dark green color and tight leaf formation; it should resemble a tightly-closed flower. Since a winter’s frost can cause dryness, avoid artichokes that look brittle or have splitting leaves. Once you’ve mastered their anatomy, you’ll want to have artichokes on your table all season long.
If you are preparing multiple artichokes, make sure you have half of a lemon nearby along with a bowl of cold water combined with the juice of 2-3 lemons. After you trim each artichoke, rub the surface with the lemon and immerse them in the lemon water. This will keep the ‘chokes from turning brown. If you’re peeling and cutting the artichoke, put the pieces immediately into the lemon water.
How to Trim and Peel an Artichoke (for Cutting)
Using a sharp knife, trim off most of the stem of the artichoke, leaving about ¾ inch of the stem.
Carefully pull off the tough leaves until you reach the outer edge of the heart of the artichoke.
Next, cut off most of the leaves of the artichoke, about an inch from where the stem meets the base.
Using a paring knife, cut around the outside of the artichoke, which will remove any remaining tough skin and leaves.
Continue around the edges until the artichoke is completely peeled.
You will now see an inner fuzzy core, which is actually the “choke” itself. Using a spoon or melon baller carefully remove this part.
Continue scraping until you’ve removed all of the fuzzy bits.
The artichoke is ready! Put this piece immediately into your bowl filled with lemon water.
How to Prepare Whole Artichokes for Boiling or Steaming
Wash and dry the artichokes.
Cut off the stem entirely if you want the artichoke to stand upright on a plate. Otherwise, cut off just the end of the stem. Rub the cut edge with lemon. Remember, you can peel and use the stalk too.
Peel off the leaves closest to the stem.
Using a sharp knife, cut off 1 inch of the top of the artichoke. This can be done if you are planning to stuff the artichoke, or want to ensure safer eating as there are more prickly tips on the top leaves.
Cut off the prickly ends of the leaves with kitchen scissors.
Brush all of the edges with lemon juice to prevent browning.
Steaming an Artichoke: The Basics
Fill a large stainless-steel pot with 1 inch of water and place a steamer basket inside of the pot. To add more flavor to the artichokes, you can place a bay leaf and a peeled garlic clove into the water.
Bring the water to a boil.
Place artichokes, stem side down into the steamer basket.
Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Steam the artichokes for 20 to 25 minutes, or until you can easily pull a leaf out of the center of the artichoke.
Gently pull off the leaves and dip in a simple sauce of either melted butter or an aioli of mayonnaise and minced garlic. To eat, dip the leaf in the sauce and then firmly grip the other end. Place the leaf in your mouth, dip side down and pull it through your teeth to scrape off the pulpy, delicious flesh.