Let’s get to the heart of the matter.

What is it

The immature flower bud of a thistle, now eaten as a vegetable.

in season

Artichoke season is around October to April. May at a push. But there are three main rules to buying artichoke. They must a) feel heavy b) have squeaky leaves (non-squeaky artichokes aren’t fresh) and c) those leaves must be closed – remember, artichokes are flower buds, as they age their leaves open up.


To keep them fresh, it’s best to refrigerate–they’ll keep for up to a week. For a slightly longer shelf life, place them stem-down in water.

Which parts can you eat?

The tender ends of the leaves and the heart of the bed are edible; the tough outside leaves and furry central choke are not.

getting to the heart of the matter

We can thank Zeus for the artichoke. Ancient Greeks believed that as punishment for deceiving him, Zeus turned his lover Cynara into an artichoke. In Italy, and the rest of the Mediterranean, artichokes were considered both a delicacy and an aphrodisiac. Today, there are more than 100 varieties worldwide, ranging from dark green to deep purple. From large spheres to long ovals.

how to peel and prepare an artichoke

Everything about an artichoke suggests it doesn’t want to be eaten; its armour petals, prickly thorns, and furry choke. But, with the right know-how, it’s easy to get them ready for eating. Before you begin, fill up a large bowl of cold water. And pop some gloves on.

  1. Pull off petals. Tear off the leaves until you get down to the very fine, yellow leaves in the middle.
  2. Cut off the stem. Using a serrated knife, cut the stem where it meets the base of the heart.
  3. Cut off remaining leaves. Using the same knife, cut off the fine yellow leaves where they meet the heart.
  4. Trim heart of green bits. The goal is to cut away any remaining green parts; go slowly here.
  5. Get rid of that furry choke. Grab a spoon and remove the furry stuff in the centre of the heart.
  6. Soak. Drop in a bowl of cold water to prevent browning. And repeat.

the Jerusalem artichoke

Surprisingly, the Jerusalem artichoke isn't really an artichoke, nor does it come from Jerusalem. It belongs to the sunflower family, has edible tubers, and looks like a knobbly potato. When cooked, they offer a sweet, nutty flavour. Try our roast parsnips and jerusalem artichokes with cavalo nero and stilton.

simple dinner idea

A whole artichoke (steamed or boiled) is a perfect addition to a sharing feast. Pop it in the centre of the table and let everyone pick at the leaves, dipping in a pink peppercorn aioli or an anchovy butter, perhaps.

Fill a large saucepan with enough water to come halfway up the sides. Add some aromatics (like bay leaves) and some citrus (like the juice and rind of a lemon) and add the artichokes to the water. Use a lid smaller than the pan (or a heat-proof plate, if that’s easier) to weigh down the artichokes and keep them submerged, then bring to a simmer and cook for an hour, until a skewer goes easily through the heart and the leaves peel off easily. Drain into a colander, keeping the artichoke tips facing downwards, and leave for five minutes, then transfer to a platter.

“Chef, any top tips when preparing an artichoke?”

Milli said using lemony water to prep your artichokes prevents browning as you prepare the rest. Katja reckons it’s all about the knife: it must be small, sharp and serrated. She also recommended buying the young, tender artichokes as they’re much easier to get to the heart of. Jake jumped in and pushed for the importance of wearing gloves. The raw artichoke fluid has a way of tainting everything you touch.