Selecting ArtichokesAlways choose seasonal vegetables as they are usually the freshest and tastiest.An artichoke is usually harvested just before the bracts open. Choose fresh artichokes that feel heavy for their size, without cuts or bruises, and those that have crisp leaves. The bracts should be deep in colour, glossy and solid when squeezed. Take note that the artichoke will be fresh if it makes a slight squeaking sound when you gently squeeze it with your fingers. Don’t select artichokes that appear to be turning brown and look dry or are wilting. If you hold the artichoke up by the stem and it can hold the globe up firm without drooping, the artichoke will be fresh. Brown tips can indicate either ageing or frost damage. Artichokes that are frost damaged are still good, tender and very tasty to eat. To distinguish between an ageing or frost-touched globe artichoke; you will notice that the frost affected artichoke will have a whitish, blistered appearance. Rub the bracts with your fingers, if the brownish membrane comes off, and the inside of the bracts are still a tender green colour, it has been frost affected and not aged. Frost-touched globe artichokes are fine to purchase as they will still be flavoursome. The outer bracts will be removed in the cooking process anyway. It is impossible to avoid the frost burning the outer leaves, as winter is the peak season for growing globe artichokes and there will always be a number of frosty mornings during this season. Some people actually prefer the flavour of frost-affected globe artichokes as they are picked in the extreme cold, meaning they are at the season where they are the most tender. The extreme cold actually seems to preserves the sugars making their flavour superior to those artichokes harvested in warmer climates.Artichokes are available most of the year, with the peak season being from mid-April to mid-October. In the beginning of the season you will find that although the artichokes are still tender, the leaves will be slightly open, but the flavour remains the same. In the autumn the globe grows more quickly than in the normal season, and outwards rather than producing tightly packed bracts, due to the warmer weather. However, despite this appearance the artichoke will still be tender and full of flavour. There is no ‘norm’ for a globe artichoke as they grow and appear differently in diverse seasons.You will find that towards the end of the artichoke season, the choke will be larger and the artichoke will not be as tender, so the price will drop. This is the time to buy in volume and use the hearts for preserving, taking advantage of the reduction in prices.Artichokes hearts preserve well, either by pickling or freezing them. They should last you to the next artichoke season. For information on how to freeze or pickle artichokes, please visit my How to Store or Recipes section.