It’ so easy to just get marinated artichoke hearts most of the year, but when artichokes are in season, there are few vegetables that are more earthy and refreshing than artichokes. In their peak season, usually between March and May and often extending into summer, they are ever so tasty steamed and grilled with just a little lemon.
Artichokes are thistles, members of the genus Cynara, family Compositae, with cousins marigold, daisy, Echinacea, and dandelion. They originated around the Mediterranean, and, in spite of their name, have almost nothing in common with sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes), which are actually a New World food.
Here are some basics on cooking fresh artichokes…
At the market… If you’re choosing fresh artichokes at the store, look for firm, brightly-colored ones with unblemished leaves that hold tightly together. The most common kind to us is globe artichokes, which can be found in the traditional green globe, baby (harvested earlier), purple (more bitter, pretty product of certain seed varieties), and long stem (whose stems are edible if peeled).
Back home… Artichokes turn color quickly, so hold artichokes in a water bath with a squeeze of lemon during preparation if you have a lot to do. Your artichoke trimming will vary by recipe and what part you want to use, but for most recipes you will need to remove the stems and the top third of each artichoke, and trim off the sharp edges and outer leaves.
Fresh artichokes are fantastic roasted, steamed, boiled, and grilled, and they love breadcrumbs, cheese, and pork products as much as they love lemons, garlic, and fresh herbs.
To the stove (or grill)… The Paula Deen Test Kitchen gives you clear instructions for trimming and preparing artichokes in this great spring-summer recipe, Grilled Artichokes with Bacon and Rosemary Dip Here, they’re blanched in batches while you preheat the grill and fry up some bacon to make a yummy dip. They are then simply halved lengthwise and grilled for about 10 minutes.
Artichokes can also be boiled all the way through, plain, or in broths flavored with citrus, aromatics, spices, and white wine, or stuffed and foiled-wrapped as in Stuffed Artichokes. Here, individual leaves are packed with a garlic, parsley, cheese, and breadcrumb blend, topped with lemon slices, and simmered covered until fork-tender.
When they’re in season, you don’t have to bolster artichokes with cheese and crusty bread, but that’s always delicious. Out of season (or anytime you’re in a pinch), try these recipe favorites using marinated artichoke hearts: Mini Artichoke and Gruyere Quiche or Shrimp Scampi with Artichokes and Basil.