I'm not going to sugarcoat this: trimming an artichoke (also known as turning or paring) the classic French way is a labor of love. The leaves are prickly, and you have to cut away about 75 percent of the vegetable before you reach the edible portion. However, there are shortcuts: ways to prepare artichokes that require less time, less fussiness. Whether or not you can deploy these tactics is a matter of how you want to cook them—or not cook them, as it were.
Artichokes (which are actually categorized as flowers, botanically speaking) can be eaten raw if you'd like. They can also be steamed, roasted, fried, braised, or grilled. The one thing that I would recommend, if you're choosing to prep and cook fresh artichokes, is that you make a dish in which the artichoke is the true star. Our digital director, David Tamarkin has gone on record as a person who will only use canned artichoke hearts. And it's true that if you plan on blending them into a dip or tossing them into a salad or a braise with a lot of big, bold flavors, relying on canned (not marinated) or frozen artichokes may be the way to go. But, if you're here because you want to highlight the buttery, grassy, fresh flavor of artichokes in season, keep reading for all the ways to treat them right.
How to Prep Artichokes
The first step for prepping artichokes, no matter your chosen method, is to fill a bowl with cold water and squeeze the juice from at least half a lemon into it. This acidulated water will serve as a resting place for the trimmed vegetables while you work on the remaining ones. Without the lemon, the artichokes will quickly turn brown (like a cut apple). If you ever feel like you're moving slowly, give the artichoke-in-progress a dunk or rub the cut lemon over the expose flesh to mitigate oxidation.