Sunday, May 07, 2006

How to Trim an Artichoke

and prepare artichoke hearts - full pictorial guide

photograph picture how to trim how to cut how to prepare a globe artichoke

Nearly 20 years ago, I tried my first artichoke. I was at a posh restaurant in a little village in the English County of Norfolk, having lunch with the boyfriend du jour. When I say posh, I don't mean really fine dining. At that age I had only just started eating out in restaurants and so every meal was a grand adventure for me. The poshness of the place, which was hushed and had real napkins, water jugs and flowers on the table, was judged in contrast to my then self, who was probably wearing a flouncy, colourful mini-skirt over a pair of tight black leggings or cycling shorts, and men's black reeboks and who would have arrived at the restaurant on one of the first mountain bikes imported into the UK, a flourescent yellow Marin Muirwoods. And this particular restaurant had artichokes on its menu which seemed awfully posh to the naive, young me. I had never seen one in my life before.

It arrived in front of me, a whole, steamed artichoke, and I didnt have the first idea about how to eat it. Really, neither of us knew what to do with it. I was aghast. I hovered over it, puzzled, wondering whether I should dig in somehow with a knife and fork?

My etiquette saviour came in the form of another customer who had also ordered the 'choke. Unfortunately this brave diner was seated behind me and so I couldn't watch him which led, instead, to my dining partner having to relay instructions to me as he studied the artichoke-eating technique unfold. "He's pulling out the leaves one at a time", he whispered across the table to me, "and then he's dipping it in the sauce and it looks like he is sucking on it". "NO! Don't eat the whole thing, he is throwing the rest of the leaf away!"

Over the years, I tried steaming whole artichokes from time to time, never being really happy with the sludgy brown results I created. But since I have been taking cooking classes at Tante Marie I have learnt how to deal with these prickly thistle flowers and now I have absolutely no fear of them. In fact, I find preparing them to be extremely theraputic. My various teachers at the school have each shown me a slightly different technique for preparing the artichokes and after some practice my own way of doing it has evolved, mainly based on the instruction of Jen Knapp, but with much more lemon involved and the help of a grapefruit spoon!

An Illustrated Guide to Preparing Articokes:

photograph picture how to trim how to cut how to prepare a globe artichoke1) Start by filling a bowl with cold water and squeezing the juice of a lemon into it. This will serve as a bath for for the artichokes during the preparation period. Acid in the form of lemon (you could use a dash of white vinegar instead) will slow the formation of phenolics which are quick to cause browning on the surface of the vegetable when it is cut and exposed to air. The water will also reduce the artichoke's exposure to oxygen and help slow the discolouration.

In addition, have a halved lemon at the ready before you start work on the artichoke. You will be using this lemon to rub over cut surfaces at every turn. Also make sure your equipment (knives and saucepan are made from a non-reactive substance such as stainless steel)

photograph picture how to trim how to cut how to prepare a globe artichoke2) Begin work on the artichoke by pulling out the tough, outer, dark green leaves.

photograph picture how to trim how to cut how to prepare a globe artichoke3) Continue removing leaves until you are left with just light coloured, tender leaves in the centre. Immediately rub the newly exposed surfaces with juice from the halved lemon.

photograph picture how to trim how to cut how to prepare a globe artichoke4) Slice off the top one inch of the leaves.

photograph picture how to trim how to cut how to prepare a globe artichoke5) Trim the stalk - but not too far. The stalk is actually a continuation of the heart and it tastes good, so make sure not too much of it goes to waste. Again, rub cut surfaces with lemon.

photograph picture how to trim how to cut how to prepare a globe artichoke6) Using a small pairing knife, trim the remaining dark green surfaces at the base of the artichoke, including the stalk. Continue to rub with lemon as you work.

photograph picture how to trim how to cut how to prepare a globe artichoke 7) At this stage your artichoke should look nice and neat like this.

photograph picture how to trim how to cut how to prepare a globe artichoke8) Next stage is to cut the artichoke in half. Rub the edges with that lemon juice again - it really does help slow the browning process.

photograph picture how to trim how to cut how to prepare a globe artichoke9) The choke - hairy fibres in the centre of the artichoke - all need to be removed in a large artichoke like this one. My top tip at this stage is to use a grapefruit spoon which has a serrated edge and makes the job slightly easier. If you don't have one a regular teaspoon will work too. Use the tip of the spoon to gouge out all of the hairs.

photograph picture how to trim how to cut how to prepare a globe artichoke10) Pull out all of the tough red leaves in the centre, leaving the soft green leaves in place. Rub those surfaces with lemon again!

photograph picture how to trim how to cut how to prepare a globe artichoke11) Your artichoke is now prepped. Leave the halves in the water bath whilst you tackle your other artichokes. Just before cooking, Cut the 'chokes lengthwise into sizes that suit your recipe and rub with lemon again. For artichokes this big I would probably cut each half into eight pieces.

The particular artichokes in these pictures are destined to become part of a delicious Artichoke Panzanella salad later today.

Links, Resources and Further Reading

Bay Area Resources:
Artichokes | from Iacopi Farm
The Ferry Building | Market Place
Saturday Morning | Farmers Market
Cooking School | Tante Marie

Other Resources:
Eat Local | Eat Local Challenge
On Food & Cooking | Kitchen Science tips from Harold McGee
Pictures of Norfolk | on Flickr

Archive Alert! On this day in 2005: It was the start of a Quiz

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How to Trim an Artichoke


  • At 7/5/06 08:58, Blogger Dive said…

    Yo! I just made artichoke soup last night!!!

    Big ass, **locally grown** artichokes on sale - 2 for $3 - at Whole Paycheck.

    5 were enough for a big pot of soup.


    I know all you Local Challenge folks are looking for recipes...I'll try to post one soon.


  • At 7/5/06 09:04, Blogger Sam said…

    Kevin - I am mighty jealous - I paid $3 each at the market yesterday. How does your artichoke -trimming technique compare to this one?

  • At 7/5/06 09:48, Blogger Erin S. said…

    thanks so much for this guide--pictures help me much more than written descriptions. This was exactly what I needed to tackle the artichokes in my crisper.

  • At 7/5/06 10:18, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great tutorial Sam!


  • At 7/5/06 10:53, Blogger Rachael Narins said…

    As always, your photos are breathtaking...(and of course, put me to

    It also totally cracks me up that artichokes are considered posh...

  • At 7/5/06 10:59, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Sam

    Thanks so much for such a concise lesson in the art of artichoke preparation. It is an area which to be honest I am usually a little baffled by and as a result I rarely cook artichoke recipes.

  • At 7/5/06 11:35, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The grapefruit spoon is one of my favorite tricks, too. Lovely and informative pics. ($3 each sounds a bit steep, though).

  • At 7/5/06 14:08, Blogger cookiecrumb said…

    I've managed to field-strip artichokes without making too much of a bloody mess, but... You don't get to eat the leaves!

    Oh, fun anecdote: I was at a dinner party eons ago where the host served a whole steamed artichoke and some dip as an appetizer for us all. Everyone dutifully picked off leaves, but then no one made a move for the heart. They didn't know the best part was inside! Well, I did!

    (Nice work, Sam.)

  • At 7/5/06 15:22, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think you are a pro at doing this and I want to hire you to do mine next time!

  • At 7/5/06 17:06, Blogger Deetsa said…

    Not that I'll get to prepare them any time soon but, being visual, it's a nice thing to have such a great looking guide to prepping those beauties.

  • At 7/5/06 17:49, Blogger Tea said…

    This is brillant, Sam. You make it look delightfully easy--and the photos are lovely.

    I'm still a bit artichoke shy after my utter failure with the Michael Chiarello recipe. But I did take the plunge this weekend to make your amazing panzanella (I cheated and used baby artichokes--much easier prep), which I brought to a BBQ and got rave reviews. Thanks for the recipe!

    And I love the image of you in mini-skirt and leggings on an early mountain bike. Did you ever think back then that you'd be living just next to Marin and Muir Woods?

  • At 7/5/06 21:57, Blogger Delphine said…

    Brilliant, twice:

    one for the highly ingeneered technical triming tutorial...

    two, because I was wondering yesterday what was the name of that brand who made the cute black snickers I wanted soooo badly and never had when I was a teen : Reebock. Then still do the one I want, yeeepeee!

  • At 7/5/06 22:54, Blogger Passionate Eater said…

    Thanks for your lesson Sam!

    I am still struggling with how to deal with (and cook) artichokes. I am a simple woman, in that I only used the canned (or jarred), pre-shucked kind of artichokes. I previously read a comment on someone else's artichoke post that analogized artichokes to cacti--thanks for helping me see that cooking and preparing fresh artichokes is actually not that hard!

  • At 8/5/06 07:49, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Whole steamed artichokes with hollandaise sauce is one of my favorite things. It's such a sensuous food -- everything from preparing it (those spiny leaves. ouch!), eating each individual leaf, freeing the choke at the center, and finally savoring the heart... Mmmm.

  • At 8/5/06 14:11, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I just had visitors from home (london) and I asked them to bring over my favourite food magazines. Anyway thought you might like to know (if you didn't already) that you were mentioned in Olive magazine (May 2006) on their Blogwatch "our pick of the most funny, useful and opinionated Brit Food blogs..."

  • At 10/5/06 15:41, Blogger the chocolate doctor מרת שאקאלאד said…

    Thanks, Sam, for this valuable resource. I will be linking here whenever I mention artichokes, and I am always mentioning artichokes.

    Looking forward to visiting CA in the next couple of weeks.

  • At 11/5/06 02:08, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thank you Sam, for the step by step photo guide. I have never prepared artichokes before because of the lack of know how. Photo guides rock!

  • At 11/5/06 11:07, Blogger kiki said…

    Sam - Great photo guide ! I'm going to Castroville next week for the artichoke festival. Will bring home a few baskets to practice since Íve never trimmed an artichoke before :))

  • At 12/5/06 11:00, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Now I know how to eat cook an artichoke..if I ever get one!
    It has always intrigued me. Thanks Sam.

  • At 13/5/06 00:19, Blogger Chanita Harel חני הראל said…

    Wonderful !
    we love Artichokes !
    we pay 5.5 shekel for 1 kg, here in Israel (2 are about 650 gr)($1=4.4 shekel)
    Thanks for this great post . ;)

  • At 14/5/06 03:21, Blogger Parisbreakfasts said…

    These pictures are amazing! I eat artichokes every day they are in season & sometimes 2x a day. They're addictive! I nuke them with a sprinkle of Rice Vinegar for 4-5 minutes depending on size. At the corner from my house in Astoria you can buy them 4 for $.99 so who could resist. I've never prepared them this way & will try it. This reminds me of the artichoke hearts I saw floating in acidulated water in the Venice market...Beautiful!

  • At 14/5/06 22:26, Blogger Ferg said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 14/5/06 22:27, Blogger Ferg said…

    Thanks for the tips. I look forward to trying artichokes again with a better game plan!

    By the way, If you are ever in the mood for a road trip, there is a hidden gem in Pescadero called Duarte's Tavern that serves amazing artichoke soup.

  • At 16/5/06 19:31, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What kind of knife do you use to slice off the top inch of the leaves? I've tried both a regular and serrated one, and maybe they're not sharp enough, because I can never get them very clean. There are always stray fibers hanging off, which kind of ruins the look.

  • At 16/5/06 19:56, Blogger Sam said…

    Hi Aoife
    I use my chefs knife. it is quite new and therefore luckily very sharp. The sharper the better to get through those thick leaves.

  • At 18/5/06 11:42, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have to add my voice to the chorus of thanks. I've read a million descriptions of how to do this task, but you are the only one who has ever truly eased my raw artichoke anxiety. I now feel I can tackle this task and no longer be relegated to tinned or frozen arty-hearts...

  • At 6/6/06 00:58, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi and thank you for a most beautiful and informative site..however..this will be my first time preparing an artichoke and I was wondering if there is a use for the outside leaves? I have read other books that talk about cutting off the ends and thorns of the outside leaves and steaming them as well. When you get to the middle you remove the choke and eat the heart or use it in other recipes. Have you done this? Can you eat the outer thorny leaves, thorns removed of course and are they tender? Thanks in advance for the info. Great site!

  • At 21/6/06 15:27, Blogger Sam said…

    zillalives - i wouldn't sweat the leaves too much. It depends if you want to concentrate on the leaves or the heart as the focus of your meal. When you pull the leaves out of uncooked artichoke like this one pictured, most of the edible parts of the leaves stay attatched anyway. Even if you cook the whole thing, leaves and all, you will end up throwing 90% of the leaf away. You only suck out the tiny succulent part.

    But eatinh an artichoke that way is fun, the heart wont taste as good as if it was cooked separately in a recipe.

  • At 23/8/06 16:49, Blogger Sara Gray said…

    Thanks for the great site! I used your artichoke photo on my site and linked it back to your "how to trim an artichoke" article. Check out my site at Easy Appetizer Recipes - where you can find great ideas for easy and simple appetizers to fit any occasion.

  • At 12/9/06 05:40, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Stunning! I love this post. Artichokes are my favorite food in the entire world; I will eat them in any format. And now, I need to get some more.

  • At 15/10/06 15:14, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi there, thanks for your excellent set of instructions on how to wrangle an artichoke. We cooked them for the first time last night, followed your instructions to the letter and they came out beautifully.

    Is this the modern way of cooking - two people huddled over a chopping board, surrounded by a mountain of artichoke leaves, with a laptop perched on the kitchen bench in front of them?

    Cheers again.

  • At 29/4/07 21:15, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    vry useful hahahaha

  • At 29/4/07 21:15, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    vry useful hahahaha

  • At 5/8/07 09:52, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Nice!! Thanks so much for the great pics. I always felt that artichokes were way more trouble that they're worth but I just love them too much. I bought 2 for $1 USD each (considered super cheap) and now thanks to you I won't be nervous about preparing them properly!

  • At 22/3/08 15:36, Blogger nate said…

    I just recieved an institutional size can (5.2 lbs) of Del Destino artichoke hearts as a gift. Do I freeze the unused portion or do I just leave them in the can? Thanks for any help you can give.

  • At 22/3/08 18:22, Blogger Sam said…

    I am sorry Nate, I am unable to help you. I am just a simple home cook who mostly uses fresh produce so I don't have any experience of canned artichokes. I hope you find somebody elsewhere who can guide you in the right direction.


  • At 11/5/08 02:23, Blogger The Downward Arrow said…

    Great photos and clear explanations!! Thanks for this. We will definitely have artichokes today.


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