Artichokes may be odd-looking vegetables, but their health benefits are amazing! One artichoke rings in at only 25 calories and contains tons of vitamin C, fiber, potassium and antioxidants. Although you can buy artichokes in jars and cans, they are best when fresh and perfectly ripe. Luckily, figuring out ripeness is an easy and straightforward process. Here’s how:

 

  • Look at the stem. A ripe artichoke will have a green stem like the rest of the vegetable. A black or dark brown stem at the point of the cut is a bad sign—it means the artichoke is more than likely overripe.
  • Check the leaves. Are they clinging together? If yes, you've chosen a ripe artichoke. If the leaves are unfolding or sticking out, it's probably past its prime and will lack flavor.
  • Give it a gentle squeeze. Look for an artichoke that is heavy and firm, which means it's packed with moisture.
  • Take a peek at the color. A ripe artichoke will be a dusty green color. You might notice a few slight brown splotches on the leaves, but that's normal. However, you should avoid artichokes that have a purple hue, deep bruising, or brown soft spots. This usually means the artichoke is rotten and should be avoided.
  • Watch out for flowers or buds. Although flowering sounds like a good thing, it's not! Artichokes begin to flower when they are overripe.
  • Rub the outer leaves together. The leaves of a ripe artichoke will make a funny squeaking sound when you push them together.
  • Bend one of the leaves just a bit. If the leaf snaps off completely, the artichoke is ripe and ready to be eaten. If the leaf bends but doesn't break off, the vegetable is probably old and not flavorful.

How to store

Store your artichoke in the vegetable bin in your refrigerator where it should stay fresh for about four days. Don't leave it in the plastic produce bag from the grocery store. Storing it in plastic will increase the moisture content and make your artichoke spoil faster.

How to prepare

Whether you're making a meal or appetizer, the artichoke has you covered! Serve hot spinach artichoke dip at your next get-together, or whip up chicken piccata with lemon, capers and artichoke hearts. Have picky eaters at the dinner table? Try mixing diced artichoke hearts, ground turkey, and your favorite spices to add a punch of flavor to your boring old turkey patties. Shh…we won't tell those finicky eaters they're eating artichoke!

If you're looking to add some pizzazz to sweet treats, try whipping up an artichoke cheesecake or artichoke and Parmesan bread pudding. You can even use finely chopped artichoke bottoms to make artichoke brownie cupcakes with mocha frosting!