How to select for best flavor:
Fresh, ripe artichokes are crisp and will squeak when rubbed together. This is probably the best test of an artichoke’s freshness. Look for a compact, green head with tightly closed leaves. Artichokes tend to open up as they mature, so this is a good way to tell how fresh they are. Old artichokes tend to shrivel and take on a grayish or tannish cast. These should be avoided.
Peak of the season:
Artichokes are available all year round, but the best selection and price can be found from March through May.
Artichokes vary in nutritional value by size and also by the stage at which they are picked. Generally, artichokes are a good source of protein, iron and calcium. They also have fair amounts of vitamins A and B1. One artichoke contains about 55 calories, nearly no fat and 79 mgs. of sodium.
Don’t confuse the globe artichoke with a Jerusalem artichoke. Jerusalem artichokes are not artichokes at all. They are related to the sunflower and are used the same way you would use a potato.
Artichokes are best steamed and the leaves peeled off one at a time, as the succulent part is on the inside lower portion of each leaf. The hair at the center must be scraped out to reveal the heart of the artichoke, truly a delicacy!
In the 16th century, artichokes were thought to be an aphrodisiac. This theory has not held up well in practice, but eating an artichoke can be a very sensual experience. Eat them with someone you love.