01 of 07
Start With Fresh, Compact Artichokes
There are all kinds of reasons to clean your own fresh artichokes into artichoke hearts. The main one is it's the only way to end up with fresh, rather than canned, marinated, or frozen artichoke hearts. The process does take some time, it's true, but it isn't difficult. The first one you do may end up looking a bit mangled, but you learn a lot doing that first one. They will look smooth and pretty with just a bit of practice.
In order to end up with the tastiest, most tender... artichoke hearts, you need to start with fresh, moist artichokes. Like all vegetable, artichokes slowly but surely dry out after they've been harvested. As they lose moisture and age, their leaves pull away from the center, the stem wrinkles, and the tender inner heart gets increasingly fibrous, dry, and tough.
Look for artichokes with tight, compact heads and fresh-cut stems. Note that all cut stems will be brown—artichokes oxidize and turn brown very quickly after being cut—you want to look for artichoke stems that aren't dried out.Continue to 2 of 7 below.
02 of 07
Cut Off the Artichoke Stem
Cut off and discard the stem end of the artichoke. How much stem you remove depends on the preparation you have planned for the final artichoke heart:
Continue to 3 of 7 below.
- For basic, steamed or stuffed artichoke hearts, cut close to the base so the artichoke can stand up on its own.
- For Roman-style artichoke hearts or grilled artichoke hearts, remove only the browned bit at the end and peel the rest of the stem later.
03 of 07
Pull Off Leaves From Artichokes
Pull off and discard the artichoke leaves, starting with the outer ring and working your way around and in the entire thistle. Most of the leaves will sort of snap off, leaving the meaty bit at their ends still attached to the heart. Don't worry if you end up pulling the whole leaf out, though, there's not all that much artichoke at the end of any given leaf in the big picture.Continue to 4 of 7 below.
04 of 07
Keep Pulling Off Leaves
Keep going—pulling off and discarding the artichoke's leaves—as you get to the inner leaves and they turn tender, pliant, and yellow.
The seeming waste of all these may drive you insane. One option is to save the leaves, toss them with a bit of olive oil, lay them on a roasting pan, and cook them in a hot oven until they are tender about 20 minutes. Serve them warm or at room temperature and eat them as you would eat a steamed artichoke - scraping the tender flesh at the ends of the leaves... with your teeth, dipping the leaf in melted butter or aioli first, if you like.
Or, there is no shame in embracing the fact that simple steamed whole artichokes may be the dish for you!Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Remove Center Leaves
Grab the tops of the center leaves and pull to remove them and reveal the center, fuzzy, choke underneath.
These leaves are often a bit stiff at the ends, and, depending on the specific variety, may have lovely purple tips.Continue to 6 of 7 below.
06 of 07
Remove Fuzzy Choke
Use a spoon to dig in and scrape out the fuzzy (and inedible) choke.
Be vigorous here: It's called a "choke" for a reason. One bit of the hairy choke is quite unpleasant. Not only does it taste just plain icky, but it has a stiff and unpleasing texture. It's infinitely better to sacrifice a bit of the heart than to risk trying to swallow a wisp of choke.
Behold! A fully scraped artichoke heart, without a bit of choke in sight.Continue to 7 of 7 below.
07 of 07
Trim the Bottom of the Heart
Use a paring knife to cut off and discard any tough, fibrous, dark green parts clinging to the outside of the artichoke heart. Again, be aggressive. You want only the tender, light flesh of the heart when you're finished.
Et voila! You have a fully trimmed and cleaned artichoke heart. It is ready to cook and eat. If you're not going to cook it right away—if, for example, you are now going to trim down some more artichokes down to their hearts—plop the cleaned artichoke heart in a bowl of... cool water to which you've added a few tablespoons of lemon juice or white wine vinegar to keep it from being exposed to too much air and turning excessively brown.