Sometimes you want to get right to the heart of the matter, in this case the heart of the glorious fresh artichokes that arrive each spring.
Here’s how to trim an artichoke to get that heart, which you can use for all sorts of recipes, such as oil-poached artichoke salad or sautéed artichoke hearts.
You don't have to discard the artichoke leaves. You can cook them, steam them as you would a whole artichoke. (Leaves? Petals? More accurately bracts. The artichoke is a thistle, a flower and the "leaves" are actually a special form of leaf that surrounds the budding flower that are called "bracts".)
How to Trim an Artichoke
You'll need a sharp paring knife, a large empty bowl for leaves, and a large bowl filled two-thirds with ice water.
- A fresh lemon cut in half
Squeeze half a lemon into a large bowl of water:
If you are trimming more than one artichoke, squeeze half a lemon into a large bowl of ice water. You will be dropping trimmed artichokes into this bowl to keep them from browning while you work others.
Snap off outer green leaves, then pull off yellow petals:
Start by snapping off the artichoke leaves and tossing them into a large empty bowl. When you get to the yellow petals, just pull them off. Wipe the exposed surface with the other half of the lemon you cut.
Pull out the pink tipped leaves:
Take care when you get to the pink center of the artichoke leaves. There are sharp spines on the end of the inner leaves. Pull them out.
Use a paring knife to dig out the fuzzy choke:
You will want to slice off the narrowest layer of the heart to get all of the choke without cutting away too much of the delicious heart.
A note on this whole process. Don’t do it if there are distractions. You need to focus. You will be using a sharp knife close to your hands. Since artichokes are tough when raw, you can easily cut yourself if you take your eye off what you are doing.
Rub cut lemon over exposed artichoke heart:
Once the fuzzy choke is out, smear the cut lemon all over the exposed heart.
This prevents the heart from oxidizing and turning brown. An artichoke is still perfectly edible when oxidized, it just is not particularly attractive.
Slice off all but the last inch or so of the stem:
Rub lemon juice on the cut end.
Trim the hard green exterior of the rest of the heart:
Cut away from you as you rotate the artichoke, slicing off just the hard green part and leaving the light green underneath. Rub this with lemon.
To finish, slice the outside layer off the stem and then coat the whole heart one more time with lemon:
Drop into the lemon-water bath and go on to the next one.
Here's a tip: as your cut lemon gets used up, put it in the water bath, which will help keep the bath’s citric acid content high, and help keep the artichokes from browning.