Artichokes are a versatile and tasty vegetable taken from the unopened bud of a certain type of thistle. They are made up of a tender, fleshy heart surrounded by protective petals known as bracts, and are usually either green, purple, or a mixture of the two. They can broadly be divided into either globe artichokes, which have a round shape and are the most widely available, and elongated artichokes, which have a more conical shape.
The most commonly-eaten part of the artichoke is the fleshy heart, which is tenderer and has a more pronounced flavour. The outer bracts are usually too tough to eat, but the inner bracts have a pleasant, crunchy texture and a more delicate flavour. Artichokes in general have a fresh, nutty, earthy flavour, and can be cooked in many different ways.
Artichokes are packed full of important nutrients, with one medium-sized artichoke providing a good source of plant protein, and roughly a quarter of your recommended daily intake for fibre. They are also among the most antioxidant-rich of all vegetables, and contain a wealth of vitamins and minerals.
The same medium-sized artichoke contains just 60 calories and virtually no fat, but provides 25% of the RDI for vitamin C and 24% for vitamin K. Our artichoke is a good source for many of the B vitamins, including a particularly impressive 22% of the RDI for folate, as well as several minerals, including magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, zinc and iron.
Artichokes come in many different sizes, shapes and colours. Here is our guide to some of the most popular and how to eat them.
The Baby Anzio artichoke is the smallest member of the artichoke family, at just 1 to 2 inches in diameter. It has a sweet, nutty flavour, and tastes great grilled or roasted with a little olive oil and garlic.
The Big Heart artichoke can produce buds up to 5 ½ inches wide, and weighs about a pound. It has a large, fleshy base, and is perfect for stuffing.
The Castel artichoke is large, pale green and round, with a refined flavour that tastes best steamed or boiled and served with a dip.
The Chianti artichoke is another large variety that tastes great stuffed, particularly with sun-dried tomatoes and cheese. It has green leaves with maroon dashes, similar in colour to it’s wine namesake.
The Fiesole artichoke is a baby artichoke with violet coloured skin. It has a nutty, fruity flavour and a tender stem, and can be roasted, steamed or braised.
The Green Globe artichoke is the most common type of artichoke. It is dark green with a hint of purple, and is commonly used in salads and spicy dishes.
The Imperial Star artichoke is the most popular variety for growing at home. It has a similar flavour to the Green Globe, but slightly sweeter, and can be used in the same type of dishes.
The Jerusalem artichoke is not a true artichoke, but a variety of sunflower with an edible tuber root. It is considered to have a flavour somewhere between a potato and an artichoke, and is popularly used in soups and salads.
The Lyon artichoke has the largest heart of any artichoke, at up to 6 inches in diameter. It has a buttery, slightly sweet flavour and is generally used for stuffing.
The Sangria artichoke is a medium-sized variety with dark purple leaves, and is popularly used in salads and on pizzas.
The Omaha artichoke lacks the bitter edge of many varieties. It has a meaty texture, and is usually either grilled or stuffed.
The Carciofo Romanesco artichoke has dark purple leaves with a hint of green. It has a large heart and is usually eaten grilled.
The Tempo artichoke is a hybrid variety with a blended green and purple colour. It can be boiled, fried or roasted, and tastes great with a little oil, lemon juice and garlic.
The Siena artichoke is an elongated variety, with a conical shape and wine-coloured leaves. It goes well with olive oil, garlic, pepper, and lemon juice.
The Violetta artichoke is another elongated variety. It has thick, purple leaves, and is mostly eaten in salads.
How to prepare artichokes
Artichokes can seem a bit intimidating at first, but they’re easy to prepare once you know how. Follow our step by step guide and you’ll soon be prepping artichokes like a pro.
Before you go near the artichoke, take a fresh lemon and cut it in half, then place it by the side of your cutting board. Artichokes oxidise very easily and will start turning brown as soon as you cut them. Rubbing lemon on the cut surfaces will help to protect them from oxidation, so make sure you keep one close at hand. You should also use a non-reactive stainless steel knife for any cutting work.
Using your knife, remove the very end from the artichoke stem, score a cross into the cut end, and rub your lemon across it to prevent browning.
Trim any tough leaves from the stem, then use a vegetable peeler to peel the sides, rubbing well with lemon afterwards.
Slice approximately ¾ inch from the top of the bud, so you have a flat top, then rub it with lemon.
Taking your kitchen scissors, snip the spiky tops from all of the remaining bracts.
Finally, rinse the artichoke under running water, opening up the bracts to let the water into each layer.
Now your artichoke is ready to cook, here are some mouthwatering recipe ideas for what to make with it.
Grilling artichokes adds a deliciously charred, smoky flavour to their tender flesh. These grilled artichokes from Simply Recipes are served with olive oil, salt, lemon and garlic, to really bring out that sweet, nutty flavour.
Steaming artichokes makes them irresistibly juicy and tender while preserving their flavour and nutrient content. These steamed artichokes from Martha Stewart are simply served with melted butter and an easy hollandaise sauce.
Make a meal of your artichoke by stuffing it with savoury goodies. These Italian stuffed artichokes from The Lemon Bowl are great as an appetiser, a lunch, or an extra-special side dish.
Artichokes taste great with pasta, and this simple artichoke pasta recipe from BBC Food uses garlic, Parmesan and herbs to complement their delicate flavour.
The fresh but savoury flavour of artichoke is perfect for dips, and this spinach and artichoke dip from here at Fine Dining Lovers is the tastiest dip you’ll ever load onto your chips.
Roasting enhances the nuttiness of artichokes, giving them crispy edges with a meltingly tender centre. These amazing roasted artichokes from Gimme Some Oven are full of big flavours, and super simple to make.
Artichoke also works well as a pizza topping, and this spinach and artichoke pizza from A Couple Cooks is pizza with real gourmet appeal.