Not to be confused with other unrelated artichokes, such as the Chinese artichoke and Jerusalem artichoke, the commonly-known artichoke is the globe artichoke.
It is a perennial vegetable with an edible core, called the heart, that is found after removing the external scaly leaves and the inedible hair, called the choke, surrounding the heart. The artichoke heart is a clump of close-packed young leaves that are tender because they have not completely formed.
Artichokes are best in the summer. Look for smaller, younger artichokes that are heavy for their size and have closed leaves. Open leaves indicate that the artichoke is mature and the heart will be over-developed and largely inedible.
The artichoke is originally from Sicily, and is prominently grown in California and France, most notably in Brittany and Provence.