In-season from June through to late autumn, artichokes are valued for their tender, nutty-tasting heart, located at the base.
A member of the thistle family, its tightly packed leafy covering surrounds an inedible fibrous choke, which has to be removed before serving.
There's a small amount of artichoke flesh, located towards the base of each of the leaves, but it's the heart or fond which is especially prized.
Shaped like a globe, and often sold with its long stem attached, they're especially popular in France and across the Mediterranean.
Look for tightly packed artichoke heads, avoiding any opened or discoloured ones. Once bought, they keep in the fridge for around 5 days.
The plant shouldn't be confused with Jerusalem artichokes, a root vegetable, which has no relation to the globe artichokes.
IN THE KITCHEN
To cook an artichoke, first snap off the stalk and trim the pointed tips of the leaves with a pair of scissors.
Prise open any leaves from the top of the artichoke. You'll eventually reach the hairy choke, which should be pulled out and the base scraped clean of any straw-like fibres with a teaspoon.
If you're cooking the artichoke whole, simmer in boiling water, sharpened with a squeeze of lemon juice, for about 30-40 minutes. It's ready to serve when the leaves can be pulled out easily. Drain the artichokes to remove any extra water and serve warm or at room temperature. Some people find it easier to take out the choke after cooking.
If you're after the fond or heart, cut the tops off the artichokes and discard the leaves along with the hairy choke - the hearts can then be cooked on their own.
Artichokes discolour rapidly, if you're going to keep them for any length of time before cooking, soak in water with a couple of lemon slices.