Artichokes are thistles that haven’t blossomed yet. The plants can grow 3 to 4 feet tall (1 metre to 1.2 metres.) If the Artichoke were permitted to break out in bloom, it would make a blue flower about 7 inches wide (18 cm.)
When all the Artichokes are harvested from the plant, the plant is cut back to below the soil surface to encourage new shoots. This is called stumping. A plant is good for 5 to 10 years of production.
Baby Artichokes are young Artichokes. They are picked from lower down on the plant’s stalk, where they were growing more slowly because they didn’t get as much light. They are walnut or egg size; generally, baby Artichokes will have no fuzzy choke inside. Consequently, they can be cooked and eaten whole (minus their spiky tops.)
Inside a full-grown Artichoke is the “choke”, which is the flower inside that has yet to come out. You eat the base of the Artichoke, called the “heart”, and the inside leaves. Spring ones will be light green, autumn ones will be olive green. Brown tips are a sign of age, or frost damage. Frost damage is okay; this is called “winter kissed”, and it doesn’t affect the quality, as long as the Artichoke is still green inside the petals (which are called the “scales”.) Some Artichoke lovers even think the flavour of these “winter kissed” leaves is better.
There are actually over 140 different varieties of Artichoke plants which produce Artichokes of various sizes from very small ones to ones over 4 inches wide (10 cm.) Green Globe is the most common variety. The Italian violetta variety is somewhat smaller.
The main exporters are Algeria, Argentina, California, France, Italy, Morocco, and Spain.
Choose Artichokes that feel heavy for their size and are firm. The leaves should squeak when you press them together. A few back spots are fine; avoid those with lots of black spots.
Basic Artichoke Prep: To prepare Artichokes, have a slice of lemon handy. Wash the Artichoke, and make sure there is no dirt between the leaves. Cut off the stem and pull off the lower petals. Cut off the top 1/2 inch (1 cm) of the Artichoke. Trim the tips of the leaves to get the thorns off. Every cut you make on an Artichoke, rub that newly-exposed surface with your piece of lemon.
If you want to scoop out the choke in the kitchen so that your guests don’t have to do it at the table, cut off the top third of the Artichoke and the stem, spread the leaves open to expose the choke, and dig it out with a spoon or melon-baller until no more of the choke remains on the sides and you are clean through to the bottom of the Artichoke.
A pressure cooker is a very good way of cooking Artichokes; it only takes about 15 minutes. Microwaving them is even faster, about 5 minutes, but they can come out leathery.
To grill Artichokes on a grill, prep as per “Basic Artichoke Prep” above. Cut the Artichokes in half, scoop out choke (if necessary; if they are baby ones, you might not need to); toss with a mixture of olive oil and coarse salt (ratio: 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt per 1 tablespoon olive oil). Put the halves directly over medium-high heat on an already heated grill. Cook until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Turn once or twice during cooking.
Don’t let anything iron or aluminum (including aluminum foil) come into contact with an Artichoke; it will turn the Artichoke shades ranging from grey to black and blue.
If you are going to try to serve a wine with Artichokes, it needs to be a very acidic wine, or the taste of the Artichokes will ruin the wine. You are probably better off serving a fine beer with Artichokes.
Baby Artichokes can be eaten raw. 
1 large Artichoke weighs about 12 oz (340g); only about 2 oz of it (50g) will be edible.
1 14oz can of Artichoke pieces has about 5 pieces in it.
Store uncooked, fresh Artichokes in fridge unwashed. Either stand in water as you would a flower, or store with a damp paper towel in a sealed plastic bag. You should be able to keep them for up to 4 days.
Store cooked Artichokes in a plastic container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Artichokes were grown by the Greeks and Romans; the Romans considered them a delicacy. Artichokes became scarce in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire, but were re-introduced to Spain and Sicily by the Arabs. The Arabs called it “al’qarshuf”, whence our word.
Artichokes were introduced into the UK in 1500s, and into the US in the 1800s by French immigrants to Louisiana.
Literature & Lore
Artichokes are used in making an Italian aperitif called “cynar”. It may not be globe Artichokes that are used, however. At a charity quiz night in Nov 2003 hosted by Anne Robinson (of “Weakest Link” TV show fame), Clarissa Dickson Wright (of “Fat Ladies'” fame) insisted that one of the answers was wrong and that it was not globe Artichokes which were used, but the reportage that I saw didn’t go on to say what she felt the correct answer was.
“It is good for a man to eat thistles, and to remember that he is an ass. But the Artichoke is the best of thistles, and the man who enjoys it has the satisfaction of feeling that he is an ass of taste.” — Eneas Sweetland Dallas, Kettner’s Book of the Table, 1877.
“Les artichauts, c’est un vrai plat de pauvres. C’est le seul plat que quand t’as fini de manger, t’en as plus dans ton assiette que quand tu as commencé !” [Artichokes are a true dish for the poor. It’s the only food where, when you’ve finished eating, you have more on your plate than when you started!] — Michel Colouche (French actor & comic, 1944-1986)
“These things are just plain annoying. After all the trouble you go to, you get about as much actual ‘food’ out of eating an Artichoke as you would from licking 30 or 40 postage stamps. Have the shrimp cocktail instead.” — Miss Piggy
Marilyn Monroe was crowned Artichoke Queen in Castroville, California in 1949.
A Globe Artichoke is basically what you think of when you think of an Artichoke. It’s now being called a Globe Artichoke owing to the confusion with Jerusalem Artichokes, which no one had heard of anyway, so in a way this situation is all very unnecessary. Everyone agrees that “Jerusalem Artichoke” is just about the most unhelpful, irrelevant and misleading name in the world for a root vegetable. There was a chance to rename it before the latest popularization attempt began, and it’s not as though green grocers haven’t rewritten half the dictionary already anyway by the conjectures they scribble on their cardboard bin signs… but alas.
In Italian, an Artichoke is called “carciofo”, though in some parts of Northern Italy the word “articiocco” is used.
 “I had no idea that some people ate artichokes raw until I visited my wife’s parents in the Loire valley. Even as a committed devourer of the unusual and exotic, this seemed a little weird to me. Still, I watched the delight with which they began stripping off the raw, delicate leaves and smearing the base of each one with a little salty butter before nibbling away contentedly. Of course, I joined in – and I would encourage you to try it yourself if you are lucky enough to get hold of very fresh, small, young artichokes (best grow them yourself). There is a slight astringency, but also a delicious, raw nuttiness that you don’t get with cooked artichokes.” — Fearnley-Whittingstall, Hugh. Have a heart. Manchester: The Guardian. 21 June 2008.
McKenna, Emily. How to Cook Fresh Artichokes. Eating Well Magazine. 11 April 2012.