The artichoke is native to the Mediterranean. The artichoke vegetable that we eat is actually the flower bud from a large plant, which apparently can grow to rather large - 2 m in diameter and 1.5 m in height. The most common type of artichoke that is sold in grocery stores is the Green Globe artichoke.
Artichokes can be somewhat expensive because of the intense labour necessary to harvest them. Each bud must be harvested by hand, and it can take up to two years for a plant to begin producing buds.
So...How do you cook them?
Many people feel a bit lost when it comes to artichokes and don`t quite know what to do with them. However, there are some simple ways to prepare this fine vegetable, which has a delicate, slightly nutty flavour and weird appearance. Many people eat the leaves as well as the succulent heart, sometimes only the "choke" is served, topped with a variety of sauces.
Get it Ready - Handy Tips
With a sharp knife, cut off the stem at the bottom, leaving about 1 cm, so the artichoke can rest firmly on its base. Make sure to pull off any small or coarse leaves at the base.
Then use scissors to snip off the thorny tip from each leaf.
Cut about 2 cm off the top of the artichoke, leaving a flat top.
Rinse the artichoke under cold, running water. Gently spread the leaves apart to make sure they are well cleaned.
Carefully spread the centermost leaves using your fingers, and pull out the little cone of purplish leaves in the center. Scrape out the hairy "choke" with a small spoon, leaving only the meaty heart. Sprinkle the exposed bottom with several drops of lemon juice to prevent discoloring, and press the outer leaves of the artichoke back into their original shape.
Cooking and Serving
Put the artichoke in a saucepan large enough to hold them without allowing them to tip over, and add cold water to cover them.
Bring to boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 15-40 minutes (depending on size and freshness) until artichoke is tender. When theleaves are easily pulled off, and the choke in the middle is tender when pierced with a fork, you can be sure, it is ready.
Drain them carefully upside down, and then serve hot with garlic mayonnaise or melted butter. Or drizzle olive oil and lemon juice all over them.
Of course, you can use your imagination and serve with any sauce you like.