How to cut and trim an artichoke

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Artichokes are at their peak during the month of May. If you’ve been buying your artichokes canned, you don’t know what you’re missing. I know what you’re thinking... but cutting an artichoke is easier than you think it is. And fresh artichokes make all the difference!

Stuffing the artichoke

Much like bell peppers, artichokes can be stuffed to make a delicious meal with an edible bowl. Traditionally, artichokes are stuffed with a blend of bread crumbs, cheese(s), herbs and spices -- and sometimes even meat.

Step 1: Clean the artichoke

Because of the characteristics of their leaves, artichokes can get pretty dirty. To clean it, hold the artichoke tip-side up under cold running water, rinsing between the leaves (without pulling them down). Then simply turn it upside down (with the stem facing up) and shake it several times to remove the excess water. Dry with a clean kitchen cloth or paper towel.

Step 2: Trim the leaves

Using a large knife with a straight blade, cut off the tip (1-1/2 to 2 inches from the top). Next, you'll need to remove the tips (and only the tips) from the leaves. This is most easily done with a pair of kitchen scissors. This will allow you to get a nice, clean cut without pulling back the leaves too much.

Step 3: Cut out the base and boil

Cut the stem flush with the base and boil the artichoke for 40 or 50 minutes. Remove it from the boiling water with tongs and allow to cool.

You'll note that the insides of the artichoke where you removed the tip (in step two) are slightly purple. Using a pairing knife (if necessary), carefully remove these leaves and any hairs that cover the heart of the artichoke. Unless you'll be cooking them immediately, place the scooped artichokes in water spiked with lemon juice until you're ready to use them.

5 Things to do with fresh artichokes >>

Using only the hearts

Many pasta dishes and salads call for artichoke hearts. While you can certainly purchase the bottled or canned versions, fresh-cut artichokes are second to none. But the preparation is a little different than if you plan to stuff them.

Step 1: Clean the artichoke

Hold the artichoke (tip-side up) under cold running water, rinsing between the leaves (without pulling them down). Turn it upside down (with the stem facing up) and shake it several times to remove the excess water. Dry with a clean kitchen cloth or paper towel.

Step 2: Remove the leaves

Starting with the outermost layer, grasp a leaf at the top and gently pull downward until it snaps. Continue removing the leaves until you get to the pale yellow leaves underneath.

Step 3: Trim the stem

Using a pairing knife, remove the hard bits of the leaves around the base (not the pale yellow heart). Next, peel the woody outer layer of the stem (you can use a vegetable peeler instead of a pairing knife if it's easier). Then cut about 1/2 inch off the bottom of the stem.

Step 4: Expose the heart

Cut the trimmed heart in half lengthwise, exposing the soft purple middle. Remove the purple portion and the little hairs covering the choke (try using a grapefruit spoon). Again, if you don't plan to use them immediately, place them in lemon water to avoid discoloration.

Cooking artichokes

Regardless of which method above you choose, your artichokes are now ready to stuff or slice and cook according to the recipe. Try these recipes for a little inspiration.

Artichokes stuffed with garlic and capers recipe
Artichoke wonton bites recipe
Spinach artichoke pizza recipe

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix the Fish. You can follow her on Twitter @HireHeather.