Buying and storing artichokes
You can find artichokes throughout the year, but they’re most readily available in the spring. Shop for uniformly solid heads that are heavy with thick, green, tightly packed leaves. Avoid artichokes that are soft or have loose, spreading, wilted, dry or moldy leaves. If leaves begin to separate, the artichoke will start to lose its natural tenderness.
In the fall and winter, leaves may have brown tips from frost. This has no effect on the flavor or the texture of the artichoke; in fact, it’s thought that a frost causes the plant to mature more slowly, enhancing the vegetable’s nutty flavor. The brown color turns green when cooked.
To store fresh artichokes, sprinkle them with cold water, seal in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Just before cooking artichokes, slice off their stems to make a flat base. Use a stainless steel knife to reduce discoloration. Remove and discard the coarse outer leaves nearest to the stem; then cut off the top third of the artichoke. Snip off any thorny tips, and rinse the artichokes to remove dirt from between the leaves. To prevent discoloration, plunge the artichokes into lemon water (3 tablespoons lemon juice in 1 quart of water).
For baby artichokes, cut off the top third of the artichoke leaves if the leaves are dark green (which indicates they’re fibrous). Remove any other dark green leaves from the base and cut off the stem. Cut the artichoke in half or in quarters; if there are purple or pink inner leaves, cut them out. If the interior is white, the entire vegetable is edible. Then plunge it into lemon water.
Boiling Fill a deep pan (stainless steel, enamel or nonstick) with 4 quarts of water and 1/3 cup of lemon juice. Bring it to a boil over high heat. Add four to six artichokes and return the water to a boil. Cover the pan and boil gently until the stem ends are tender and a center leaf pulls out easily—about 40 minutes for large artichokes, 25 to 35 minutes for medium ones and 15 to 20 minutes for small ones. Drain upside-down.
Steaming Place 2 to 3 inches of water in a large pan and bring it to a simmer. Place the artichokes on a rack over the water, cover the pan and cook them the same amount of time as required for boiling.
Microwaving Place artichokes upside-down in a dish, and add 1/4 cup water for each artichoke (cook no more than four at one time). Cover and microwave on high: 6 to 8 minutes for one, 9 to 11 minutes for two, 10 to 12 minutes for three, and 14 to 15 minutes for four. Let them rest, covered, 5 minutes.
Italian Stuffed Artichokes make a delicious place to start exploring!