|This is an "artichoke heart."|
Love love love artichokes! They are so tasty and fun to eat. Unfortunately my tummy has stopped agreeing with me on the issue. The last few times I've eaten an artichoke I've gotten a stomachache afterwards. There goes another of my favorite foods, something I've eaten since childhood and have many happy memories of. I guess I can keep the memories without eating the food.
When my sister was a toddler, and I was about 7 years old, we noticed that she was using the artichoke leaves as a spoon to eat lots of mayonnaise. I thought it was the funniest thing ever. We all dipped the leaves in mayonnaise, though I have since discovered I like mayonnaise combined with mustard a lot better. That's the way my husband's family eats them.
If you buy your artichokes at the store, they are usually huge and very expensive, but we lived near Watsonville, California, the artichoke capital of the world. There were artichoke stands, like fruit stands, where you could buy them a little cheaper and a lot fresher. Somehow my mom discovered a place where they sold small artichokes, about the size of a small apple, for a very low price. We spend a few hours blanching them and bagging them for the freezer and enjoyed artichokes all through the winter. The beauty of those small ones was that a single artichoke made a single serving. We each got our own, rather than having to cut them smaller down the middle.
To cook them, you can boil them for about 45 minutes, but my preference is to use the pressure-cooker, and they cook in 15-18 minutes without losing nearly as much flavor. You can add lemon juice to preserve the bright green color, but in my experience that slowed down the cooking, at least when boiling them, but I don't remember tasting the lemon. So I guess it's all up to your personal preference.
My older sister did not like the artichoke heart. She would eat all the meaty part of the leaves and then give away the heart. We sure hoped to be on her good side those days. I think the heart is the best part.
Artichokes are so important in California that there's even an advisory board. If you've never had one, check out their instructions on How to Eat an Artichoke. There's also a Wiki with pictures, but it's a bit confusing. It shows cutting off them stem, then later it says to dip the stem into whatever dip is available. Cut off the stem right at the base of the leaves and discard the long woody part. Then, after they are cooked, you can eat the remaining bit of stem right along with the heart.