Nothing epitomizes the triumph of man over flora that are trying to kill him than eating an artichoke. Given that the plant it grows on is an enormous thistle, with prickly leaves and sharp edges to the flower bud, that anyone ever ate one is a testament either to humankind's indefatigable quest for the tasty or humankind's boundless capacity for masochism.
Nonetheless, artichokes are a popular food and a harbinger of spring; the first tiny artichokes are starting to appear next to the green garlic and the first tiny peas of the season.
Picking artichokes is easy: look for the most tightly-closed leaves and a fresh-looking cut on the bottom; the blacker the cut, the longer the bud has been off the plant. Tiny baby artichokes can be cooked and eaten whole; they are too immature to have the fuzzy choke in the center; larger chokes can be cut in half or quarters, have the leaf spikes clipped and the choke removed.
Remember that artichokes oxidize and turn greyish-black when exposed to air; cut artichokes should be submerged in water mixed with an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar.
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