There are three commonly known types of artichokes-Globe, Jerusalem, and Chinese. Most commonly in the United States you will find Globe which are mostly produced in California. Jerusalem however are beginning to show up in markets and on restaurant menus.
When looking for artichokes in the grocery store or at your local farmer's market you should always choose ones that have a vibrant green color with as few blemishes as possible. Is the tips of the leaves are becoming brown then they are probably getting old. You also want to look at the leaves. The tighter they are around the base the better; if the artichoke looks open then it is getting old. Finally, it should be fairly heavy for its size.
Artichokes are fairly perishable so you should eat them within 4 to 5 days of purchase. When you get them home simply store them in the refrigerator, unwashed until you are ready to use them.
Getting your artichoke ready for cooking and eating is simple. All you have to do is rinse it well under cold running water and cut off any parts that are blemished. Most people peel off the outer few small leaves by the base and you can even trim the base to make it look nice. If you are stuffing the artichoke then you should slice off the top inch where the leaves are pointy. Some people cut off all the pointy edges of the leaves, but if you are simply steaming and eating the leaves this is not necessary.
One of the simplest ways to prepare and eat an artichoke is to steam it whole and peel the leaves off one by one dipping them in a simple olive oil dressing, scraping the meat off the leaves. Once you get all the way to the bottom, remove the hair from the heart and enjoy the meat. Or you can of course stuff them. If you want to sauté or braise them and add them to another dish like pasta then you need to get to the heart. Peel off all the leaves (you can steam the artichokes and eat the leaves so nothing goes to waste) and chop up the heart for cooking or addition to a recipe.
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