How-To: Artichoke 101

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artichoke, artichoke recipes, steamed artichokes
artichoke1 It’s artichoke season and I’m stoked!  I love artichokes!  In salads, tossed with pasta, steamed whole and especially stuffed!  I’ll eat this vegetable anytime and anyway.  In a house with a mouse or in a box with a fox (thank you Dr. Seuss)!  I obviously have a mild obsession with this flower vegetable (they’re the flower of the plant) and so I use them quite often.  I always have at least two boxes of frozen artichoke hearts or bottoms in my freezer.  That way, I can satisfy my artichoke craving anytime I want!


Now that Spring has officially arrived I’ve gotten even more excited about artichokes…if you can imagine.  That’s because they’re officially in season and these big green globes are popping up all over grocery stores and farmers markets.  And they’ve been calling my name.  Maaaria (of course this is sung out kinda like from West Side Story).

Although still very delicious, whole artichokes take a little time and patience to be prepared.  I’ll never forget the first time I brought home some fresh artichokes – I was so excited to whip up a fantastic artichoke recipe.  Except…I had no clue what I was supposed to do with a whole artichoke.  I mean, they’re kinda prickly and hard and came with no operating instructions.  Um, help?

artichokes7 So I called the only artichoke expert I know – my grandmother.  She gave me great detailed instructions and some tips for working with and breaking down an entire fresh artichoke (she’s a pro and makes the BEST stuffed artichokes on the planet).  And since it isn’t the easiest process to remember, I wrote down all her instructions (still have them) and figured I’d share them with you.  That way you can enjoy the wonders of whole artichokes too!

artichokes9 Artichoke Prep 101:

  • Supplies:  fresh artichokes, lemons, sharp knife, kitchen shears, and a small paring knife or spoon.
  1. Start with fresh artichokes.  Need tips for picking out the perfect artichoke?  Read my tips here.
  2. Rinse off your artichokes in cold water.  Dry thoroughly.  Get out your sharpest knife.  Artichokes can be hard to work with, so using a sharp knife will make everything go more smoothly.
  3. First, slice off the stem right at the base of the artichoke.  You can peel this, cook and eat it if you want – or save it for stock.  Then slice off the top 1-2 inches of the artichoke.  See 3rd picture.  Rub half a lemon over the cut parts of the artichoke – this will keep it from browning.
  4. Then break off all brown and tough leaves around the base of the artichoke.  I usually peel off about 2-3 layers of the leaves.  See picture 3 and 4.
  5. Now, take a pair of kitchen shears and cut off the tops of all the leaves.  But just about 1/4-1/2″ off of each leaf. You’ll notice there are little prickly tops on the leaves and they are NOT fun to eat.  So just cut off enough of the leaf to get rid of the prickly bit.  See picture 5.
  6. Now this next step can be done either before or after you cook the artichokes – just depends on what you plan on doing.  Either way, you’ll need to remove the choke – that’s the furry, prickly and often purple center of the artichoke.  You can’t eat this part.  Well…you can, but it’d be bad.  It’s difficult to remove the choke before cooking.  It’s much easier to remove it right after you steam or bake them.  However, if you plan on stuffing the center of the artichoke, I recommend removing the choke before cooking.  You do this by spreading out the leaves of the artichoke to expose the prickly insides.  See picture 5.  With a spoon or knife scrape out the choke.
  7. Cook the artichoke!  If I don’t stuff the artichoke, I put a half a lemon in the center and steam it (see picture 6) until I can pierce through the base easily with a knife – about 25-30 minutes.  Serve warm with a garlic lemon mayonnaise or your other favorite dipping sauces!

You tell me!  Do you like artichokes?  What’s your favorite way to prepare artichokes?  Do you prefer buying fresh artichokes or frozen/canned?



  1. carrian

    May 8, 2013 at 10:00 am

    I love artichokes. love this post!

  2. Kiersten @ Oh My Veggies

    May 8, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    I wish I had read this before I made artichokes the first time! It was a bit of a disaster. Also painful. :/

  3. Cookie and Kate

    May 10, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    I have been too intimidated to try cooking fresh artichokes. Thank you for sharing these great tips, Maria!

  4. Hazel@fresherfood

    May 16, 2013 at 6:03 am

    What a great post! Incredibly helpful. I’ve always been too scared to try preparing and cooking artichokes so this will help me finally tackle them. Thank you

    • mewinebrenner

      May 16, 2013 at 7:51 am

      Glad you liked it! They aren’t too bad to work with once you get the hang of it. Good luck and hope you enjoy your recipe!

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