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How to Buy, Prep and Cook Artichokes

RecipePan-Seared Baby Artichokes

Emily Hankey is our produce butcher at the fruit and vegetable prep station in New York City’s Bryant Park store. Emily learned her cutting edge knife skills at the French Culinary Institute.
 
We are getting to the height of artichoke season. These thistles — yes, artichokes are thistles! — are in season from March until May/June, although they can go all summer under the right circumstances. I know a lot of people are intimidated by artichokes, either because they can’t see what’s inside, under the leaves or because they’re not sure how to cook them. But with this guide and a little patience, you’ll be on your way to enjoying this spring treat, whether you steam, pan-sear or bake it.
 

Shopping

While grocery shopping, you encounter a huge pile of gorgeous, in-season artichokes. Now what? I tend to look for larger, round artichokes with thick bottom stems. Make sure all the leaves are packed together and intact, with light green or purple and green leaves.
 

Storing

You can leave whole artichokes in the fridge up to three days. Each day, prune any shriveled leaves and trim the stem. 
 
But I’m usually so excited about artichokes that I immediately begin prepping them when I get home. Doing the prep work in advance can save you a lot of time when you are ready to cook. Trim the artichokes according to your recipe, then store them in acidulated water (a fancy name for water with lemon juice!) for up to two days — this keeps them from turning brown. Make sure you pat them dry with paper towels before cooking, especially if you’re using a dry-heat cooking method such as searing.
 

Trimming

I begin by peeling the stem with a vegetable peeler, starting from the base of the artichoke and going down the stem. You don’t have to peel too much off, but do remove the outer layer because it may have small thorns. If the stem breaks, it’s okay, no worries! Artichokes are delicious no matter their appearance.
 
I peel back the bottommost layer of leaves to help expose the shape of the choke. Next, I take a serrated knife and cut off the top third at the very peak of the artichoke, where all the leaves come together. Then I snip the tops off each leaf. If you’re roasting or steaming your artichokes, then the work is done!
 
Check out our “How To Prepare Artichokes” video to see these step-by-step preparations and get steaming instructions too. 
 

How to “Turn” an Artichoke

If you’re going to shave artichoke hearts, then it’s time to turn. (You'll need to pull the outer leaves off before you get to this step.) Turning refers to the process of removing everything but the edible center of the artichoke, called the "heart." Hold the artichoke in your non-dominant hand — if you’re right handed, hold it in your left. Start by turning the artichoke towards you, using a paring knife to remove the leaves from the base. It’s kind of like the motion of peeling an apple with a knife.
 
If I’m frying my chokes, I stop when I start to see the tiny, tender leaves at the very center of the choke. I cut it in half lengthwise, and use a paring knife to cut out the tiny hairs in the center. I then rinse it under running water to make sure I don’t leave any hairs. Cut the chokes lengthwise in half again, and they’re ready to fry.
 
If I’m shaving my artichokes into salad, I cut the tender leaves straight off like a buzz cut. You’ll then want to slide the tip of your paring knife just under the base of the hairs to remove them, then rinse fully in water before cooking or storing in lemon water.
 

And Remember

Go slow, so you don’t cut yourself. You’re in charge, so don’t think you’re in a race against time. If you prepare your dish with love, everyone will be able to taste it!
 

Recipes to Try

In addition to Pan-Seared Baby Artichokes, one of my go-to recipes, here are four more I highly recommend.