Thursday, 27 November 2008 | Tags: ,

If you've never tried an artichoke, they may seem a bit of an odd thing to eat. However, artichokes have a delicious flavour and are actually fun to eat, and easy to prepare. Here are some tips for buying the best artichokes.

The Basics

  • The artichoke is actually a flower bud, not a vegetable. They are a relative of the common thistle and are typically in season from March until May. If it is allowed to blossom, it turns a purplish-blue colour.

  • The Globe artichoke is the most common variety you’ll find at the produce market. Most come from California.

  • Fresh artichokes are sold whole, sometimes with the stem attached, or cut off.

  • When picking an artichoke, feel its weight. You want the firmest and heaviest.

  • The articohoke should be a healthy green colour, fresh-looking (not dehydrated), with compact centre leaves. (Really fresh artichokes make a squeak when you rub them together.)

  • If the leaves are starting to open, it’s not as fresh.

  • The bottom leaves should break off with a crisp snap. If they bend instead, it’s not fresh.

  • The stem should look plump and firm, not wrinkled or dried out.

  • Freshly picked artichokes will ooze a white milky sap from the stem, though produce clerks usually cut or clean it off.

  • In a garden, the best artichoke is the one that grows up from the center of the plant. It will be the largest, roundest, and have a thicker heart (base) than the others on the plant.

  • In winter, you may see artichokes that have frost bite, which looks like brownish scaling on the outer leaves. There’s nothing wrong with them. Just remove the brown leaves.

Be Aware

  • Avoid artichokes that aren’t fresh. They will be one or all three:

    • appear woody and discolored.

    • have loosely spread leaves

    • have dry, wilted leaves and stems

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