Although artichokes are available year-round in most markets, prime season is from March to May. Select globes that are deep green, with a tight leaf formation, and those that feel heavy for their size.
A good test of freshness is to press the leaves against each other which should produce a squeaking sound. Browning of the tips can indicate age, but can also indicate frost damage.
Aged, dry artichokes should be passed over, but those with a little frostbite on the tips are considered the best by many, so use the squeak test for freshness.
Extremely hard outer leaves and those that are opening or spreading out mean the artichoke is old or over-mature. Size has little to do with quality or flavor. Small artichokes are just a smaller bud. One plant can produce up to 30 chokes of different sizes.
Fresh artichokes may be stored unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to one week. However, since you don't know how long they've already been on your grocer's shelves, it's best to use fresh artichokes on the day of purchase. Cooked leftovers can be refrigerated up to four days.
Artichoke hearts are also available canned and frozen for time-challenged cooks.
Artichokes must be cooked before freezing. If you freeze them raw, they will turn brown as well as suffer in taste and texture.
To freeze whole cooked artichokes for later use, drain completely, wrap tightly in foil and pack in plastic freezer bags or another airtight container for 6 to 8 months at 0 degrees F.
More About Artichokes and Artichoke Recipes:
|•||The California Artichoke Cookbook|
|•||Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven|
|•||The Whole Foods Companion|
|•||The Garden-Fresh Vegetable Cookbook|