Have you ever wondered how to prepare an artichoke for a recipe where you eat it completely? In this post we’ll see you how to do it step-by-step and look at the two types of artichokes.
But before we get into that, you should make sure you choose the best artichokes.
How to Choose the Best Artichokes
Artichokes continually start to discolour once they’ve been picked from the plant, so the brighter the green colour of the artichoke, the fresher they’ll be. Some varieties have a natural purple tinge – and that’s fine of course.
I avoid artichokes that are going black on their tips, faded green in their general colour, or browning. A tiny bit is ok but their overall colour should be bright.
The leaves of the artichoke should be close to the body. The one in the photo has been left on the plant for too long and is starting to open up.
If they are opening up like this one, the artichoke will be tougher.
Types of Artichoke
There are lots of different types of artichoke but for our purposes they can be divided into two. The big fat round artichoke which we tend to call the Globe Artichoke is more common in England and France than in Southern Europe.
The smaller, elongated artichoke, is grown across Europe in Italy, Spain and other warm countries. Within this variety there are also lots of different types, (Violeta in France, Blanca de Tudela in Spain etc.).
I have childhood memories of stripping off the leaves of the large globe artichokes and dipping them in butter before scraping off the tiny bit of flesh at the base of each leaf with huge enjoyment.
But those days are gone! Give me a Mediterranean artichoke recipe any day!
For the recipes on this site, I’m using the smaller elongated artichokes. Apart from that fact that they grow here, I like them better because you can eat the whole thing once it’s been prepared.
How to Prepare a Big Fat Globe Artichoke
The globe artichoke is easy to prepare. All you have to do is wash it thoroughly and trim off the stem and the very bottom leaves.
Then put it into a pan of cold salty water to soak for a while. The salt makes any bugs that might be hiding between the leaves come crawling out to escape the salt.
Once you’ve checked there aren’t any hidden insects, you’re ready to boil the artichoke. It takes a long time to cook. To check if its ready, strip off a leaf and try scraping the base of the leaf off with your teeth. It should be soft and tasty.
Drain the artichokes and eat by peeling off the leaves, one by one and scraping the flesh off with your bottom teeth. Traditionally you would dip the leaves in melted butter.
When you get to the middle part of the artichoke, scoop out the choke and enjoy the most tender part: the heart.
How to Prepare the Smaller, Elongated Artichoke
These are the ones I love best.
First, peel off the very toughest of the outside leaves.
Cut the artichoke in half so that you’re removing the whole of the top of the head. Be warned – there’s lots of wasted leaves but that’s just a necessary part of preparing artichokes. If you try and save too much of the artichoke, you’ll have tough parts in your meal.
Next, peel away the leaves again but this time, fold each leaf back on itself so that you’re leaving the very base of the leaf attached to the body. As you do that, take notice of whether they’re breaking easily or not. You’ll notice the difference as you get to the more tender inner leaves and then you should stop removing leaves.
Cut off the stem. If there’s a tiny bit of stem left on the head, scrape off the outer layer of darker green as it’s not very tasty.
Also, with the actual stems there’s no need to throw them away but you do need to remove the outer layer, which is bitter. So in effect you peel the stems before adding them to your recipe.
Once you’ve got all your little artichokes to this point the artichokes are ready to use. You can cook them whole and enjoy all of the artichoke but for some recipes you’ll want to cut them in half.
Use a teaspoon to flip out the furry middle of the artichoke and add each one as you finish it, to a pan of water with the juice of one lemon in it. That will help stop the artichokes from turning black.
And voila! They’re ready to be cooked in this delicious recipe for cooking artichokes or another artichoke recipe!