I can imagine, that if you didn’t grow up eating artichokes and if you were encountering them for the first time, they might seem a little intimidating!
How one cooks and eats an artichoke is not obvious from its appearance.
The artichoke is actually the bud of a thistle—a flower. The leaves (called “bracts”) cover a fuzzy center called the “choke”, which sits on top of a meaty core, called the “heart”.
The heart is completely edible (and amazingly delicious). The fuzzy choke is too fibrous to eat in regular artichokes, but edible in baby artichokes. All but the innermost leaves are tough and you have to scrape them with your teeth to eat the tender parts.
How to cook artichokes
You can boil, grill, braise, or stuff and bake artichokes. But my favorite way to cook artichokes, and the easiest way to cook them, is to steam them. I find that boiling artichokes tends to water-log them, but steaming artichokes cooks them with just the right amount of moisture.
The following is a method I’ve been been using to steam artichokes for more than 30 years. I add a bay leaf, some garlic, and a slice of lemon to the steaming water to infuse the artichokes with even more flavor.
You can steam artichokes on the stovetop or in a pressure cooker. A pressure cooker will cook the artichokes faster, but you do have less control over the outcome, and it’s easy to over-cook them.
How to choose which artichokes to buy
Here are a few guidelines for what to look for when shopping for artichokes:
Choose artichokes that feel heavy when you pick them up. If they feel light, they’re probably a bit dried out and not as meaty as they should be.
If you squeeze the artichoke, the leaves should “squeak”. This is another way you can tell the artichoke is fresh.
The leaves should be closed with just a little separation, not flayed wide open. Remember an artichoke is a flower bud, as it ages, the leaves open up. So an artichoke with wide open leaves may be on the old side.
“Frost kissed” is a-okay. If an artichoke looks like it has been burned by frost, no worries. In fact, these less-than-beautiful artichokes can taste even better than those not touched by frost and often command a premium price because of it.
1 or more large globe artichokes
1-2 cloves of garlic, cut in half (can leave skin on)