Whether you buy full-size globe or baby artichokes, look for ones with fleshy leaves, plump with moisture and a deep, green color. If your artichoke recipe calls for artichoke hearts only, plan on eating the leaves at one meal and saving the hearts for another -- the leaves have the same earthy, artichoke flavor as the heart.
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Selecting a Fresh Artichoke
Look for artichokes with plum, firm stems and tight leaves; the inner circle of leaves should form a small, tight hole in the center of the vegetable. Hold the artichoke in the palm of your hand and feel its heft -- a heavy artichoke for its size means it's moist and fresh. When artichokes are fresh, the leaves make a squeaking noise when squeezed together.
What Bad Artichokes Look Like
If an artichoke's leaf tips are split, shriveled and dry looking, or discolored with dark brown edges, the artichoke is past its prime and won't be good to eat. If the leaf tips are still intact but look discolored, the artichoke may have suffered frost damage, but its quality is still good overall. An artichoke with loose leaves and a large, gaping hole at the center of the leaves is not fresh and not worth buying.
The sooner you cook artichokes after bringing them home, the better they will taste. Unwashed artichokes stay fresh for about three to four days when you store them loose in a refrigerator vegetable drawer. Placed in an airtight container, they'll still be good up to one week.
Cut off the stem and the top half-inch of the artichoke to begin prep work. Pinch off the small, outer leaves and any old-looking leaves around the edges. Then, cut off the prickly tips of the remaining leaves with scissors and wash the artichoke under running water. Place the artichoke upside-down in a steamer basket set in a large pot with simmering water. Cook it for about 45 minutes or until you can slip a sharp knife tip easily into the bottom.