Artichoke diagram

Artichoke diagram DEFAULT

Artichoke Anatomy

Anatomy of anArtichoke

artichoke infographic

The bud contains the heart, the delightful, meaty core of the artichoke, and is topped by a fuzzy center (or choke) which is surrounded by rows of petals that protect the artichoke heart. With their tiny thorns, the artichoke’s petals reveal their thistle heritage. The thorns aren't a problem if handled carefully, and they soften in cooking.

Beware of artichokes promoted as thornless. They have smaller hearts, less meat and their flavor is not as robust as the proprietary Globe varieties grown by Ocean Mist Farms.

When preparing an artichoke, discard the center "choke" (except in baby artichokes), but the base of the petals, the center of the stem and the entire artichoke heart are completely edible and easy to cook. That's when all the fun begins!


Artichokes are such interesting things. We consider the artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) a vegetable, even though it’s a thistle and more specifically, the part that we eat (and that most people ever see in the store) is actually a flower bud — and sometimes called a head.

What’s even more confusing is the fact that most recipes (including my own) call for peeling off the “leaves” of the artichoke to prepare it (for simplicity’s sake), but the real leaves are the silvery-green ones from the artichoke plant itself.

Since the part we’re eating is the flower bud, what does that make those “leaves” we’re peeling? No, not petals — but bracts, which are the scale-like structures that protect the flower. Still with me so far?

It’s fascinating to me that the edible part of an artichoke bud is so small compared to the rest of it. An artichoke is prized for its heart, the tender flesh at the base of the bud. Every time you eat an artichoke by pulling out the bracts one by one, you’re taking a little piece of the heart with it.

But you know what my favorite part of an artichoke is? I’d have to say I love the stem, and I make a point to cut as long of a stem as I can when I harvest from my plants.

Right above the heart is the choke, a crown of pointy fibers (resembling hair) that, if left to bloom, becomes the gorgeous purple florets of an artichoke flower.

The choke in a young bud is soft and sometimes edible, especially in a baby artichoke where there may be little to no choke at all.

Contrary to popular belief, a baby artichoke isn’t a younger version of your standard artichoke; it’s a smaller but fully developed bud that grows lower on the stem after the main — and larger — bud has formed.

For comparison, the choke on the left is from a young bud that is fully developed and ripe for picking. It’s at the most desirable stage to eat an artichoke.

The choke on the right is from a more mature bud. You can see how the bracts are starting to open up and the choke is more prominent with a tinge of purple. Mature buds can be eaten as well, though they require more work to remove the hairy choke.

Now that you’ve got your anatomy down, I’ll show you how to get past all those thorns, bracts, and choke fibers to get to the good stuff inside!

More Artichoke Posts:


About Author

Linda Ly

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring — all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »

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The globe artichoke is also known as French artichoke and green artichoke. It should not be confused with the Jerusalem artichoke.


Globe artichokes are perennial, frost sensitive, thistle-like plants with edible flower buds. The silvery green plants are 4 to 5 feet tall and spread outward 5 to 6 feet. The flower buds arise on the terminal portion of the main stem and on lateral stems. Each unopened flower bud resembles a deep green pine cone 3 to 4 inches in diameter, round, but slightly elongated. Several pointed, leathery, green bracts fold around a purple-blue flower. The base of each bract is the fleshy edible portion, along with the fleshy center of the artichoke on which the flower and bracts are borne. Buds that are left on the plant open to 6-inch purple-blue flowers. These are dried and used in floral arrangements. See Figure 1 for a cross-sectional diagram of an artichoke.

Figure 1. Artichoke interior


Almost all the nation's globe artichokes are grown in a narrow coastal area of California because of the favorable climate. Artichokes do best in a frost-free area with cool, foggy summers. They do not overwinter in areas with deep ground freezes and are not well adapted to Florida's climate because hot weather opens buds quickly, destroying tenderness of edible parts. Brief periods of exposure to temperatures past below freezing cause no apparent damage.

Figure 2. Green globe artichoke

However, gardeners trying to produce them in Florida should use a variety called 'Green Globe'. Seeds may be planted, but since artichoke does not grow true to type from seed, portions of old artichoke rootstalk or root shoots are planted. Early in the spring, set the stumps, or root parts, 6 to 8 inches deep, 6 feet apart, in rows 8 feet wide. Fertilize, irrigate, and cultivate just as you would other vegetables in your garden. In other areas of the United States, attempts have been made to get artichokes to behave as annuals by planting vernalized seeds. Factors limiting production in Florida are low productivity, bacterial root rot, and an excessively long production period.

Figure 3. Halved globe artichoke


An artichoke is ready for harvest when it has reached maximum size, but before the bracts open. Cut the top one first, then the secondary ones as they mature. Store at low temperatures (near 32°F) and high humidity (95% RH). In addition to minerals and vitamins, artichokes contain about 3% protein and 0.2% fat.

Preparing Artichokes - Martha Stewart's Cooking School

Note: The exploration for this post was done in 2011 while I lived  in The Netherlands. Artichokes haven’t appeared in any store aisles in Nigeria (that I’ve come across anyway….). I am sharing it because I unearthed some ‘gems’  in the process. I hope you enjoy reading it.



None of my memories, sleeping or waking…have been consumed with artichokes of any sort. Globe or Jerusalem, pickled, boiled, fried or grilled. Australia’s cooking doyenne, Stephanie Alexander says in her book, ‘The Cook’s Companion’, a compendium of ingredients and recipes for the Australian kitchen ‘Artichokes have a reputation of being tricky to prepare and fiddly to eat. As a result, many food lovers have yet to tackle their first boiled artichoke’.


She spoke of me. A food lover terrified by thistles and thorns….of the artichokes.

I’ve tackled Mr. Lobster, almost fearlessly. I’ve even endured the sliminess of pulpo aka octopus…..and cleaned an entire one. Forget that I could not bring myself to eat it. But the artichoke, thorny veg that it is, scared me silly. Till I went to bed one night in July thinking, ‘Oh the artichoke, what fun it would be to cook one’.

Did you know that the artichoke is a large bud, harvested before it has a chance to bloom? And of course edible. And did you know that baby artichokes are not immature artichokes (like most baby vegetables), they are simply smaller versions grown lower on the plant.

So here we are. And even though I’d never actually cooked artichokes before, I have had numerous brushes with them. And I say brushes because the encounters have been brief, with no memorable experiences to stretch the event beyond the ‘then’.


A bowl of pickled artichoke hearts purchased from the Mediterranean deli makes its way into a salad at home. And as with some pickled things, the sense of the true taste is lost, gone forever and replaced by the slight tang and souring of vinegar, lemon of whatever pickling liquids have been employed. Truly, I have nothing against pickles. They serve a purpose in their own right…..purpose though which I will not allow guide me on this voyage of discovering all about artichokes.

I remember months ago, Food52 had an artichoke contest and quite unlike me, I stayed well away. To me it was like meeting a complete stranger – one I had absolutely nothing in common with, and was done  judging….. from a distance.

As vegetables go, the Artichoke is among the most fascinating visually. It is as beautiful as it is delightful to eat. You may be interested to know that the Artichoke is actually the bud of a plant from the thistle family and at full maturity, the plant grows to a width of about six feet and a height of three to four. If not harvested from the plant, the bud will eventually blossom into a beautiful, blue-violet flower, which is not edible.

The globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) is a perennial thistle of the Cynara genus originating in Southern Europe around the Mediterranean. It grows to 1.4–2 metres (4.6–6.6 ft) tall, with arching, deeply lobed, silvery, glaucous-green leaves 50–82 centimetres (20–32 in) long. The flowers develop in a large head from an edible bud about 8–15 centimetres (3.1–5.9 in) diameter with numerous triangular scales; the individual florets are purple. The edible portion of the buds consists primarily of the fleshy lower portions of the involucral bracts and the base, known as the “heart”; the mass of immature florets in the center of the bud is called the “choke” or beard. These are inedible in older larger flowers.


Once you know how, they are quiet easy to prepare.

  1. First, take a look at this diagram and the photo below to familiarize yourself with the anatomy of an artichoke. Note that the choke is inedible. Some people eat the stem after removing the fibrous outsides of it.
  2. Rinse the artichoke in the sink, and tap it, pointy-side down to remove any critters that may be hiding in the leaves, especially if you purchased organically-grown artichokes.
  3. Now, cut off the top quarter of the artichoke with a knife. Then, cut off the stem if you want. Some people like to leave it on because it tastes good!
  4. Using kitchen shears, snip off the pointy ends of each leaf; you don’t want to get pricked!

In Italy, before women buy their artichokes or carciofo, they rub two together. If the artichokes squeak on contact, they are deemed ‘fresh’, if they stay muto (silent), they are not.

Source: The Cooks Essential Dictionary, 2004


My friend E tells me a story from when she was young and they had artichokes at a large family meal. While everyone ate theirs artichoke petals, dumping the remnants in a pile and chatted, she sat quietly eating the entire petal, one after the other. At the end of the meal when it was time to clear up, everyone had nice dignified piles of half-eaten petals on the side and E?….Well, her plate was clean. 30 years later she still gets looks of disbelief and wonderment from her cousins….all because she left little of her artichoke behind!


Top Tips:

  • Artichokes should never be cooked in aluminum pans or they’ll discolour the pan.
  • To preserve their colour and bring out the flavour, artichokes are often cooked with a pinch of sugar, lemon juice, apple cider or white wine vinegar with salt.
  • Cut artichokes will quickly turn grey when exposed to air. To prevent this, submerge them in acidulated  water (which has some lemon juice).

Finally I am ready to tackle it in varied forms.

#1 Steamed Whole Artichoke

First the classic steamed or boiled, whole. Simply does it.


Once ready, I sat at a table. The artichoke petals were plucked off and dipped in melted butter as I worked my way from rim to centre.

To eat, you dip the bottom/end of the petal which is thick and meaty and full of soft pulp into your condiment of choice (melted butter, olive oil, mayonnaise or some other sauce) while gripping the thin, upper (formerly thorny tip)  end.


You place the dipped end in your mouth, clamping down your teeth and pulling the petal through to remove the soft, pulpy, delicious portion of the petal. Then you discard what’s left (which isn’t much but tough petal). When I had peeled off all the petals, I sat down to finish off the heart which while meaty, I did not find as tasty as the petals. Odd, I thought to myself.


#2 Carciofi alla Giudia with Fried Lemon, fried artichokes, from Food52

It involved cleaning and quartering the artichokes and then frying in olive oil. When ready, I salted the artichokes and sat down to dip the petals in a chickpea puree.

This was a stunner for me. The petals took on a delicious caramelized flavour – transforming the sweet pulp and raising it way beyond just steamed. The heart was nice but again, it was the petals that shone and took the ‘star’ spot.


Recipe available on, by Arielle Clementine

#3 Heart of Gold, from Food52

My final trial was a  recipe of breaded and pan fried ‘hearts’…


…. served with a cumin-lime dip. Which combined some of my favourite flavours ever. The fragrance of the lime and the smokiness of the cumin. Heaven.

I wondered from the start if this would reverse my view on the hearts. And oh boy, did it do just that. These were delicious.


Recipe available on, by Dymnyno


I loved discovering artichokes; the ‘meat’ on the petals reminds me of avocados-sweet potatoes-yams.

And the finish/aftertaste? Fine….till you drink something and then your mouth tastes sweet. Reminds me a bit of the liquorice effect.

Overall, my favourite recipe was #2 – I loved the fried petals – something wonderful happens in hot oil – caramel notes develop and there is a fullness of the artichoke flesh which turns to ‘cream’. I could see myself eating my way through a dozen petals!

Strangely, the hearts were nice but I’m not fully converted. I found it too meaty…my palate preferring the simple ‘teeth and eat’ petals.


Are you an artichoke lover? What is your favourite artichoke recipe! Hope your week is going well.[wpurp-searchable-recipe]The Anatomy of an Artichoke – – – [/wpurp-searchable-recipe]


Diagram artichoke

Artichokes: how to prep, boil, steam, bake, roast, grill, & pressure cook

A diagram of an artichoke, cut in half, showing the heart and lower leaves as edible.

Artichokes can be cooked in almost any way, but that doesn't make this vegetable any less confusing to a novice. This cooking guide walks you through the different methods to prep and cook artichokes, along with 20 recipes and links to even more in-depth guides.

Artichoke guide: everything you need to know (including what good vs bad artichokes look like)

How to prep

At first glance, it seems like artichokes require a lot of prep. While it's more than your average vegetable, it's not too bad especially when you know where to cut corners.

Do tips need to be cut off?

The purpose of cutting the tips off is to remove the thorns, however that isn't usually necessary anymore.

First, many artichoke varieties are now thornless thanks to breeding efforts. This means you don't need to cut any tips off of those varieties.

Second, on thorny varieties, many home cooks don't bother cutting them off when cooking for themselves because the thorns soften when cooked. However, some people still cut them off when serving to guests.

How to remove the choke

The choke isn't poisonous but can be a choking hazard due to the feathery consistency. Once cut open, remove the choke with a spoon.

Closeup of the artichoke's choke

How to prevent artichokes from browning

If prepping a lot of artichokes at once before cooking, they will turn brown where they were cut. This only affects their appearance and not their quality. You can place prepped artichokes in a bowl of lemon ice water until you are ready to use them.

However, since the difference in color is minimal once cooked, this can be skipped in my opinion.

Two artichokes - one treated with lemon, and the other without. Their colors after being cooked are only slightly different.

Removing bitterness

Artichokes have a protective outer substance on the leaves that tastes bitter. To remove it, wash it with a vegetable brush under running water. You will also want to wash your hands and cutting board after prepping artichokes to avoid transferring the bitterness to other ingredients.

The best guides on prepping artichokes

If you haven't cooked one before (or eaten one whole), you might be wondering what on earth you're supposed to do. Martha Stewart to the rescue - watch her prep mature globe artichokes.

Garden Betty demonstrates how to trim an artichoke to get to the heart (with plenty of helpful pictures).

Baby artichokes are smaller and the choke hasn't fully formed on the inside yet. This makes them much easier to prep. While mature artichokes take a lot of work to even eat, baby artichokes can be eaten whole (after removing the outer leaves). Most jarred or canned artichoke hearts are baby artichokes.

How to cook

Artichokes can be cooked using almost any method. The one thing you don't want to do is let a whole artichoke get dehydrated while cooking. Dehydration leads to leathery leaves, dried up 'meat,' and a tough central heart. Boiling is the most fool-proof method and steaming comes in a close second (if you don't open the lid!). Other methods like grilling and baking require a parboil or pre-steam to lock in moisture.

Cooking times will vary based on the size of your artichokes. They are done when leaves are easily pulled off. Unless otherwise noted, the cooking times below are for whole artichokes.

Serious Eats has a guide that walks through three different artichoke preparations based on the desired cooking method.


Boiling is the best method for beginners as it's the easiest to maintain high moisture. Boiling with aromatics can add a very slight flavor to the flesh (other cooking methods add more flavor). This method is ideal for a simple presentation to either dip the leaves in a sauce, or as preparation for stuffing, baking, or grilling. Boiling takes 20-40 minutes and is a little faster than steaming.

Recipes that boil fresh artichokes


Steaming is one of the most popular cooking methods because it easily lets you infuse the flesh with flavor. It's quite common to add lemon slices, garlic, and herbs to the cooking water, adding flavor to the artichoke leaves and hearts as they steam.

Some people steam them in baskets, completely out of the water. Other people set whole artichokes in 1 inch of water, without a basket (which works well for pressure cooking or the instant pot). Either way, whole artichokes take 35-60 minutes to steam. Don't open the lid - that lets out heat and moisture and adds to the cooking time.

Hearts and baby artichokes can also be steamed and take a lot less time.

Recipes that steam fresh artichokes


Baking is the most popular way to make stuffed artichokes. Baking warms the stuffing and melts cheese, which can also be done in a pressure cooker. But the main advantage of baking is that large batches can be completed at once, making it the most practical method when serving a crowd.

Artichokes are parboiled or pre-steamed before being stuffed and baked. This can be done in batches or even a couple of days in advanced (cooked artichokes will keep 2-3 days in the fridge). Once they are stuffed, an entire tray can be baked at once. It will take 30-80 minutes, depending on the size of the artichokes, how long they were precooked, and if they were cold from the fridge.

Recipes that bake fresh artichokes


Roasting artichokes is similar to roasting any other vegetable - coat it in oil and roast in to bring out even more flavors. There's no need to parboil or steam them ahead of time. Just cut them in half and roast cut side down for 25-35 minutes. Some recipes call for covering them in tin foil as well to prevent moisture loss.

Recipes that roast fresh artichokes


Before grilling, artichokes need to be boiled or steamed to soften the flesh without drying out. Once they are ready for grilling, cut them in half, spray with oil, and grill for 3-7 minutes.

Recipes for grilling fresh artichokes

Pressure cooker or instant pot

Like everything else that goes into a pressure cooker, artichokes cooking time is dramatically reduced. Add an inch of water to the bottom of the pot along and place the artichokes in the water. Adding lemon slices, garlic, and other seasonings to the pressure cooker infuse the artichokes with flavor.

Artichokes can be stuffed before being added to the pressure cooker. Make sure the stem is cut completely off so they sit upright in the bottom of the pot without falling over.

Small whole artichokes cook in 5-7 minutes and large ones take 15-20. This also works as a precooking method for grilling.

Pressure cooker & instant pot recipes

Pan fry (baby artichokes)

Baby artichokes are picked while immature, before the choke fully forms. They are hard to find at grocery stores but can sometimes be found at farmers markets.

If you can find them, I recommend picking some up. Not only are they easier to prep, they cook quicker too. Baby artichokes can be cooked with any of the other methods in half of the time (or less). But they can also be pan fried (or any other stove top method).

Recipes for cooking baby artichokes

Seasonal guides

Check out what's in season each month, or look up guides for all fruits & vegetables.

Preparing Artichokes - Martha Stewart's Cooking School

How to Cook and Eat Artichokes: A Basic Guide

Artichokes are big thistle plants that originated in Italy and were brought to the United States by Spanish settlers in the 1600s. Artichokes might look intimidating, but learning to cook them is worth it, because the scales (leaves) and heart are delicious and tender, with a somewhat nutty flavor. With this guide to buying, preparing and cooking artichokes, you’ll be an expert in no time, impressing your taste buds with your new found talent!

How to choose a fresh artichoke

  • Hold it! It should feel dense, or heavy, for its size.
  • Its leaves should be firm (never spongy) and tightly packed, either bright green or green with purple undertones.
  • Any size is OK, as long as it meets the above criteria. Different varieties come in different sizes. Larger ones take longer to cook, though.
  • If the leaves are loose, dry, splayed, spongy, split, or pitted, put it back. This artichoke is overripe and will be tough.

When you get home, store the artichokes in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. They will stay fresh this way for 4-5 days.

How to prepare artichokes for cooking

  1. First, take a look at this diagram to familiarize yourself with the anatomy of an artichoke. Note that the choke is inedible. Some people eat the stem after removing the fibrous outsides of it.
  2. Rinse the artichoke in the sink, and tap it, pointy-side down to remove any critters that may be hiding in the leaves, especially if you purchased organically-grown artichokes.
  3. Now, cut off the top quarter of the artichoke with a knife. Then, cut off the stem if you want. Some people like to leave it on because it tastes good!
  4. Using kitchen shears, snip off the pointy ends of each leaf; you don’t want to get pricked!

That’s all you need to do before cooking the artichokes, but if you plan to stuff them, or if you want eating them to be more convenient, you’ll also want to remove the choke from the center. Foodblogga has posted an excellent tutorial including all of these steps (along with photographs). She also shows you how to eat an artichoke (after you cook it, of course) by scraping the leaves against your bottom teeth. Most of the edible portion of the leaves is on the bottom third. After you’ve eaten all of the leaves, the heart is a yummy reward!

Artichoke Recipes

Those of us who aren’t up for culinary adventures on weeknights will be happy to learn that artichokes can be steamed in the microwave quite quickly! Just serve them with a dipping sauce like flavored mayonnaise, sour cream, butter or a salad dressing, and enjoy!

Cooking For Engineers has a great recipe for grilled artichokes, including step-by-step photos.

Artichokes with basil mayonnaise is another simple (simply delicious) recipe.

This turkey-stuffed artichoke recipe has an Indian twist, with seasonings like turmeric, chili, and garam masala.

Can you make rice? Then you can make this impressive walnut, bacon, and rice stuffed artichoke. It has a beautiful presentation… just right for having company over!

Did you know that baby artichokes are completely edible? They are fully mature, but since they grow low to the grown in low light, the fuzzy, gross “choke” part never develops in the center. Try this shaved artichoke salad, made with baby artichokes and parmesan cheese, and topped with olive oil and lemon juice.

Kate at GlutenFree Gobsmacked shows us how she made roasted artichokes after a long, tiring day of errands.

You can buy at the grocery store both canned and frozen artichoke hearts that are all ready for use.

Ingredients for Hot Artichoke Dip

The canned ones come either packed in water or marinated and there are many recipes that use these convenient tasty guys.’s Hot Artichoke Dip

Check out allrecipes for tons of artichoke recipes, and be sure to look at Kathy’s artichoke dip recipe here on


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