If you’ve ever eaten an artichoke, it was most likely the meaty middle part, also known as the heart. Surrounding the heart is the fuzzy choke, which is, in turn, encased by thick, thorn-topped leaves. However, the choke is too fibrous to eat, and the leaves are tough, meaning you’ll have to scrape off the edible bits with your teeth. For a vegetable as tasty as the artichoke is, it sure is a lot of work to get to its more appealing parts.
So if an artichoke’s best bits are primarily obscured, how can you tell the difference between an artichoke worth buying or passing on? Fortunately, there are a few basic rules you can follow when shopping around for artichokes.
- Choose heavy artichokes. If they’re dried out, they’re probably less meaty and, therefore, not nearly as tasty as their portlier cousins.
- Keep your eyes pricked for squeaky leaves. Squeaky artichoke leaves mean the artichoke is relatively fresh.
- Look for “Goldilocks” leaves, meaning the leaves are neither shut too closely together nor are they flayed wide open. An artichoke with leaves that fall somewhere in-between means the artichoke is perfectly ripe.
- Don’t let artichokes that look frostbitten deter you. In reality, these “frosty” artichokes sell for quite a premium in some areas of the world, as sometimes they taste a lot better than those without frost.
Now that you know how to find a good artichoke let’s talk about how to make artichokes.
First, trim the tips of the leaves, which usually have thorns on them. While the thorns are safe to eat once cooked, people often remove them for aesthetic purposes more than anything else. Beyond this, thornless artichokes are a bit easier to handle when they’re still raw.
Next, cut off the top of the artichoke–about ¾ inch will do. The best knife for this is a serrated bread knife. After this, remove the leaves growing toward the base and the stem.
Then, cut off any excess stem, but leave around an inch of stem intact. Some people find that the stem tastes pretty bitter, while others think the stem’s center tastes like the heart. If you’re a stem lover, then leave it on and just cut the tip off. You can then peel off the tough outer layers of the stem to get the tastier center.
Once you’ve cut, pruned and peeled your artichoke, rinse it off in cold water to remove any excess debris. Put a pot of water, bay leaf, garlic, lemon, and a steaming basket full of artichokes on the stove. Cover the pot, bring it to a boil, and then let it simmer for 25 to 35 minutes.
You’ll know the artichokes are ready once you can pull the leaves off relatively quickly. Alternatively, you can cook artichokes in a pressure cooker for 10 to 15 minutes. However, the cooking time will vary depending on the size of the artichoke.
As tricky as getting to the heart of an artichoke can be, they’re surprisingly straightforward to prepare. Enjoy your finished artichoke with garlic butter or just the way it is, if you’re so inclined. Thanks for reading and bon appetit!