The globe artichoke is a plant which bears a resemblance to a giant thistle. The edible part is the flower which is cut from the stem and generally cooked. The most desirable part of this vegetable is the fond, base or bottom. This can be reached by removing the "leaves", actually the petals, one at a time, dipping the base of them into melted butter, and nibbling the soft edible part there. Finally, a hairy mound of unripened petals and stamens is reached. This is the choke and should be carefully removed to reveal the base.
To prepare, remove the toughest leaves from close to the base and either leave about an inch (2 cm) of stem or remove it completely in the case of larger ones. Cook in a generous amount of salted water for up to half an hour until tender. If you are not going to cook them immediately then you should keep them in water with the juice of a lemon to prevent them from discolouring. Cooking them shortly after cutting reduces the cooking time hugely. To test that they are cooked, pull away a leaf from the middle. If it pulls away easily it is done. Alternatively, stew with other ingredients until tender. But you must remember not to use aluminium or iron pans or they will discolour.
If you are more adventurous you can prepare the hearts or bases before cooking them. For guidance on how to do this see the link below.
If you are stuffing an artichoke, take the head, turn it upside down and bash it hard down onto the work surface. This loosens the tight grip the leaves have on each other. You can then force them apart more easily and dig out the choke with a melon baller or some similar tool.
Artichokes should be firm and well closed when purchased. An open artichoke is over-ripe and will be tough and have too large a choke.
Good varieties are the large round green Camus from Brittany, the large green artichokes of Laon and the long violet variety from Provence and its close cousin found in Italy. Here you will also find different names are given to artichokes depending on at what stage in their development they are harvested. To find out about these, try typing in "artichoke Italy" and then click on "Translate from English" above. You will see the translations of 'artichoke' in many different dialects, but also things like castraùre and botoi. Alternatively just type in "artichoke" and then click on "Varieties" above.
In England the season starts in May and can go on into September. It’s best to use them fresh but you can keep them for a week in the fridge without causing any damage.