The primary artichoke season is in early spring.
Buy artichokes that are heavy for their size. Look for tightly closed, olive green leaves and moist, healthy stems. A few purple streaks on the leaves are acceptable, but limp, brownish globes should be passed by. Baby artichokes should be olive green with tightly closed leaves.
Use only stainless-steel knives and cookware when preparing artichokes, since carbon steel, aluminium and cast iron will discolour the vegetable within moments of cutting. No matter what you do, artichokes will darken somewhat, but fortunately, this discolouration does not affect their flavour. Starting at the base, pull off and discard the tough outer leaves until you reach the tender yellow inner leaves. Cut the stem off flush with the bottom of the leaves. Using a serrated knife, slice off the top 3-5 cm of the remaining leaves to remove the thorns. Cut the artichoke in half lengthwise through the centre. Using a teaspoon, scrape out the furry choke and drop the halves into a bowl of lemon water.
Sprinkle artichokes with a few drops of water and store in a perforated plastic bag in the coldest part of the refrigerator for up to 1 week. If cooking them on the day you buy them, leave them at cool room temperature. Once opened, marinated artichoke hearts will keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.