Why You Should Be Eating Artichoke Right Now

I don't want to bore you expert cooks and chefs with my personal history with artichokes, so please just skip this story and click through our gallery for recipes that will inspire you to use this seasonal gem. But for those of you who still aren't totally comfortable in the kitchen, let me tell you about how artichokes made me get into cooking.

Years back, I was living in a 310-square-foot studio in Portland, Oregon. I met a girl who would eventually teach me enough kitchen basics to make me into a self-respecting cook in my early 20s — not bad for a guy with few culinary objectives. She started me off in springtime with California artichokes. It was so simple: just cut off the pointy bits and trim, steam the artichokes in a bit of water for about 30 minutes or until a leaf pulled off easily, then dip the leaves in mayo and scrape. More scraping when it came to the heart, more dipping in mayo and the perfect small meal or basic appetizer was now in my repertoire.

The girl is long gone, but my fascination with artichokes perseveres. Every May, I greedily grab them whenever they're at the market. Sometimes, I stick with the simple preparation, but it's also an amazing vegetable for experimentation. You can stuff artichokes, fry 'em, make them into a salad or a sauce. More than almost any seasonal vegetable, they're amazing for a time and then they're gone; out-of-season artichokes, you could say, have no heart. Here are some of our best artichoke recipes, from a "how to steam" primer to creative ideas on how to cook this springtime treat.