The part of this plant used in the kitchen are the globose flower heads, 5-10 centimeters wide,
with numerous rows of hard and fleshy bracts (not to be confused with the leaves,
present on the stem and inedible) which contain very small flowers (flosculi) protected by a hair commonly called beard.
The flower heads are collected before they bloom.
Artichokes are available several months a year, ie between February and spring and from October and throughout the winter.
February is the most representative month as it straddles the two periods and is a prelude to the tender spring productions.
They can be classified into two groups: Thorny or unarmed, ie without thorns.
The prickly ones are of particular value, which can also be eaten raw. The new ones,
properly cleaned from the hardest bracts and 4 from the tips, are entirely edible as they have no internal beard.
The best known and most valuable varieties are: the Sardinian artichoke,
with an elongated conical shape with purple bracts at the edges and in the center; the Ligurian artichoke (Albenga),
with a shape and color similar to the Sardinian one; the violet artichoke from Palermo, large and elongated with green bracts.
Unarmed artichokes are generally eaten cooked. The bottoms are obtained from the larger varieties, that is,
the tender and fleshy bases without bracts and beards:
the fund is the most valuable part and finds numerous uses in the kitchen.
The most common unarmed artichokes in Italy are: the artichoke of Rome or Romanesco,
also called mammola, round, large, with a particularly fleshy base; the Empoli artichoke, of large caliber,
with an almost cylindrical shape; the Tuscan violet, with an ovoid shape; the Catania artichoke, ovoid and elongated.
They must be cleaned by removing the hardest leaves and, if they are thorny, the tips.
In the preparation it is necessary to consider the difference between the cooking time
of the stem and that of the flower heads, which are much more leathery. Therefore artichokes
should be cooked with the stem facing upwards and with the head totally immersed in water.
In this way the stem steamed and the flower head boiled.
Raw or cooked, these vegetables lend themselves to various preparations.
They can be boiled, fried in wedges or stewed (all), or fried whole
in the Jewish style or cooked in the Roman style (unarmed).
The new spiny ones are the most suitable to be served in pinzimonio,
in salads and as a garnish of carpaccio.
To cook the bottoms only, proceed by carefully cleaning the base of the raw artichoke,
removing all the parts, leveling and adjusting the upper edge as well. However,
the beard is left behind, which is easier to remove after cooking.