English artichokes are in season July to September, but good imports are available from April.
Choose artichokes which feel heavy for their size, with tightly closed central petals, and stems which don't look dried out.
Artichokes must be harvested by hand, which contributes to their high cost.
Artichoke hearts are known as crowns in the States.
The largest artichokes are those which come from the top of the stem: smaller ones grow lower down.
A whole artichoke has only about 25 calories.
Wash the artichokes and remove the bottom couple of rows of leaves. Snap off the stem, and trim the base so that each will sit steady. Cook in a big pan of boiling water for about 40 minutes, or until a leaf comes away easily and is tender at the bottom.
Eating a whole artichoke is a matter for hands, a napkin and perhaps a fingerbowl, as well as a separate large bowl for discarded leaves. Even if you defy tradition to use a knife and fork for asparagus, you will have to use fingers for artichoke, to pull off each leaf and scrape the base between your teeth to eat the delicious morsel which clings to it. Tantalisingly you work your way towards the centre: it is this suspense, and the tactile act of eating an artichoke, which may account for their reputation as an aphrodisiac.