Artichokes are one of Spring's best offerings, but the perceived effort involved in breaking through its steely exterior often means they're left on the supermarket shelf.
However, preparing artichokes is relatively simple when you know how and the pay-off - its sweet, soft heart and wonderful versatility - is worth it.
To take you through everything you need to know about preparing and eating artichokes, we tapped The Australian Women's Weekly's Fran Abdallaoui and Pamela Clark for their expert tips.
How to buy artichokes
The globe artichoke is the large flower bud of the thistle and is a green, purple or bronze colour.
When buying artichokes, look for those with tightly packed leaves, or petals, and feel heavy for their size, with a firm stem.
The leaves of small artichokes can be slightly looser, but should still feel firm. When you pull back the leaves, the freshness should make itself known with a definite “snap”.
How to prepare artichokes
Whole artichokes are often overlooked, but the leaves are quite delicious. To prepare a whole artichoke, remove the outer leaves and cut the stems so the artichoke sits flat.
However, the crown jewel of the artichoke is its centre, the tender heart.
To reach the artichoke heart, you first must cut the stem to about 3cm. Then, cut 2cm to 3cm off the top of the artichoke, and snap off the leaves until you get to the heart.
Scoop the furry choke out of the centre of the heart with a teaspoon. Place the prepared artichoke hearts in acidulated water as you go, to prevent them browning.
How to cook artichokes
This versatile plant lends itself to a number of easy and delicious cooking methods. From boiling to roasting, here's our favourite ways to cook artichoke.
Boil: Place artichoke hearts in a saucepan of boiling water; boil, uncovered, for about 15 minutes or until tender when pierced.
Steam: artichoke hearts for about 20 minutes.
Pan-fry: cooked artichoke hearts in a little butter until brown and crisp.
Roast: cooked artichoke hearts in a buttered shallow flameproof dish, briefly, until crisp.
Marinate: cooked artichoke hearts in olive oil, garlic and herbs; they are delicious served on an antipasto platter.
This story originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of The Australian Women's Weekly. To stay up-to-date with our food experts, you can subscribe to the magazine online via magshop.