Fresh artichokes have a much more complex and interesting flavor than the canned variety. They take a lot of extra work, but it's worth the effort at least a couple of times during peak season.
When are artichokes in season?
Artichokes have 2 peak seasons: March to June, and again from September to October. California artichokes are usually available all year, but better during their peak seasons. They are expensive, but are often on sale in spring when they are most abundant.
How to buy & store
Signs of a fresh artichoke
- Tight, compact leaves
- Discolored leaves are ok: that's a natural occurrence that starts when they come in contact with the air.
- When squeezed, the leaves squeak a little
- It is heavy for its size, a sign it has a lot of moisture and hasn't dried out
Signs of a bad artichoke
- There's an open hole in the center and the leaves are loose
- The tips of the leaves are split or shriveled, a sign it is dried out
- It feels light, another sign it has dried out
- It feels spongy when squeezed
How to store
Wrap each artichoke in a paper towel to absorb excess moisture (which can cause deterioration). Then store them in an airtight container in the fridge. They should last for about a week.
Cooked artichokes can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days.
What parts are edible?
If you are new to working with artichokes, they can be a bit confusing. I've found cutting them in half and looking at the different parts to be helpful.
- Heart: the entire heart is edible
- Outer leaves: the leaves are not edible, except for the flesh on the bottom where they connect to the heart
- Inner leaves: these have no edible flesh on the bottoms and therefore aren't edible. Some people say you can chew the entire leaf, but I haven't ever found that to be pleasant.
- Stem: the outer layer of the stem is usually stringy or tough, but the inner parts are edible and nearly indistinguishable from the heart.
- Choke: the choke has a feathery consistency that is not pleasant to chew and can also get stuck in your throat, causing choking. (Closeup of choke pictured below to show feathery / hairlike texture). The choke is not poisonous (but still not good to eat due to choking hazard).
How to eat an artichoke
When presented with a whole (mature) artichoke for the first time, pretty much everyone wonders, "how am I supposed to eat this?" Watch Ocean Mist's 30-second video to demonstrate.
How to prep & cook artichokes
Prepping can take some time, depending on how you plan to use them, but you might be able to skip cutting off the leaf tips and soaking them in lemon. You can then boil, steam, bake, grill, roast, or pressure cook them to perfection.