How to Choose the Perfect Artichoke

If you have never tried eating artichokes, now is the time.  The peak season of artichoke is here!  From March to May, farmers in California are now harvesting this year’s crop.  But before rushing to your local green grocer, learn how to spot the perfect artichoke for you.

How do you choose which artichoke to buy?

It’s easy.  Don’t buy a blooming artichoke.  You see, it’s like a rose.  There are roses that have already started opening, spreading their petal for everyone to see.  They might be beautiful, but with artichokes, those with tighter buds are better for cooking and eating.

Fresh artichokes also have a shiny glossy look or outer layer.

The next thing you should do is run your thumb over the top of the artichoke bud.  You are looking for leaves that will not separate when you do this.  However, the leaves of the Imperial Star cultivar are naturally a little more separated compared to other varieties.  However, the leaves shouldn’t fall apart, whatever artichoke variety you choose.

Pick the artichoke and gently shake it.  If it’s really fresh, it should feel heavy and should make a squeaking noise.  These signs mean the artichoke has more water or “juice.”

You can also rub the leaves together to look for the “squeaking” noise.

If you are after an artichoke that has a big heart, look at the base of the artichoke near its stem.  The indentation you see there will usually tell you how big the heart of the artichoke is.  Learning to check for a big-hearted artichoke takes a keen eye, so make sure to buy artichokes often for practice.

Large artichokes don’t mean they have big hearts, but they are perfect for steaming or boiling.  Young baby buds – which are also a lot cheaper – are a great addition to most dishes.

You might have bought a fresh artichoke at the supermarket, but to keep them fresh at home, seal the artichoke in a bag and put them in the refrigerator.

Artichokes may not look at all edible, but after tasting a bite of steamed artichoke petal dipped in melted butter, you will surely get hooked!