Steamed artichokes are a tasty treat, but take about 45 minutes to prepare on the stove top. The microwave can do a comparable job of cooking these delicious green globes. Almost all commercially grown artichokes in the United States come from California, and the California Artichoke Advisory Board says about 80 percent of those come from Castroville. Some people question if an artichoke is a vegetable or a fruit. The U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies artichokes as vegetables. Their peak season is March through May.
Shop for artichokes, and look for the ones where the leaves are plump and tightly packed. Try bending back a few of the leaves. If the artichoke is at the peak of perfection, the leaves won't break off. Instead, they'll easily snap back into place. It's okay to see a tiny amount of brown discoloration on the tips and at the stem, but avoid artichokes with a great deal of brown coloring. If you plan to steam them in the microwave together, plan on cooking only two at the same time so they'll cook quickly. Try to find artichokes that are similar in size so they will steam evenly.
Clean the artichokes thoroughly by holding and turning them under cold running water. With a knife, cut off about an inch of the stem and about an inch of the top. An optional step is to trim the thorns of each petal slightly with scissors, but you can certainly eat them without doing this.
Rub the cut surfaces of the artichokes with lemon juice or vinegar. This prevents oxidation and keeps the artichokes from turning brown. A lemon-lime cola will do the trick as well. If you are planning to steam the artichokes immediately, you can skip this step.
Pour about 2 inches of water in a deep bowl that is microwave-safe. Place the artichokes in the bowl, stem side up, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or even a plate that is safe for the microwave.
Cook large artichokes on high for about 15 minutes and medium-sized artichokes on high for about 10 minutes. Experiment with the time, because microwaves vary in power. To avoid the stems getting tough and dried out, flip the artichokes at the halfway point of the cooking time.
Remove the bowl from the microwave. Let the artichokes sit in the steaming bowl for a few minutes before removing and serving.