By Emily McKenna, Recipe Developer & Tester for EatingWell Magazine
I love the grassy, sweet taste of artichokes—the bud of a flower in the thistle family. But when I first started cooking, artichokes intimidated me.
I finally confronted my artichoke phobia when I got my first restaurant job. I needed to learn how to prep and cook artichokes—and fast. Needless to say, I served plenty of creamy artichoke soup in those early days as I was figuring out how to cook these delicate spring vegetables. I finally know how, and there really is nothing to it. I promise.
Here are my foolproof steps for preparing and trimming an artichoke, plus my favorite recipes for cooking them—grilled, braised and stuffed.
1. Using a sharp knife, trim the top 1/2 inch off of the artichoke.
2. Trim 1/2 to 1 inch from the stem end, and if the stem is fibrous, peel it with a vegetable peeler.
3. Remove the small, tough outer layer(s) of leaves from the stem end and snip all remaining spiky tips form the rest of the outer leaves using kitchen shears.
4. Rub the whole artichoke, especially the cut portions, with a lemon half. The lemon juice will keep the artichoke from turning brown as quickly.
5. Depending on your recipes, here are 4 ways to cook your prepared artichokes:
How to Braise Artichokes: Heat 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet; add baby artichokes and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add 1 cup each white wine (or dry vermouth) and water and 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or rosemary or tarragon). Bring to a simmer; cover, reduce heat and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.
How to Grill Artichokes: Halve artichokes, scoop out the choke if necessary, then toss with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Preheat grill. Place the artichokes over direct, medium-high heat and cook, turning once or twice, until tender, about 8 minutes.
How to Microwave Artichokes: Place artichokes in a large glass pie pan or baking dish, add 1/2 cup white wine (or dry vermouth), 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon dried thyme. Cover tightly and microwave on High until tender, about 8 minutes.
How to Steam Artichokes: Place artichokes in a steamer basket over 2 inches of water in a large pot set over high heat. Cover and steam until tender, about 15 minutes.
Here are some of my favorite recipes that use fresh artichokes:
Sun-Dried Tomato & Feta Stuffed Artichokes
One of the easiest, and most delicious, ways to enjoy an artichoke is to stuff it. Artichokes are pretty neutral-tasting, so they take well to bold flavors. In our recipe for Sun-Dried Tomato & Feta Stuffed Artichokes, you stuff whole artichokes with whole-wheat breadcrumbs, feta, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic and braise them in broth flavored with more garlic and lemon juice. Get the recipe: Sun-Dried Tomato & Feta Stuffed Artichokes and More Healthy Artichoke Recipes 
If you can find baby artichokes at the market, grill them! These tender, first-of-the-season artichokes will pick up a lovely smoky flavor from the grill. After prepping the artichokes and boiling them in lemon-water, you slice them in half lengthwise and grill them. Get the recipe: Grilled Artichokes & More Healthy Artichoke Recipes 
Another fantastic stuffed option is our Crab-Stuffed Artichokes, in which fresh, lump crabmeat is combined with crunchy celery, shallots, Old Bay, lemon juice and bread crumbs. A drizzle of lemon-garlic oil tops the dish off. Add a salad and you have dinner. Get the recipe: Crab-Stuffed Artichokes & More Healthy Artichoke Recipes 
More Recipes: 18 Delicious Ways to Cook Artichokes 
What are your favorite ways to cook fresh artichokes? Tell us what you think below.