When you consider how easy it is to open a jar or box of artichoke hearts, the idea of trimming a whole artichoke to get at its tender heart may hardly seem worth it.
While those frozen and vacuum-packed artichokes often come in handy, there are times when only the sweetness and firmer texture of fresh artichokes will do (as in this recipe for braised artichoke hearts with capers). Oh, but the tedious plucking and peeling and cutting...
If you approach the task of trimming an artichoke as if you are delicately pulling at rose petals, yes, it will take a while. But try this instead: think of it as the hardy thistle that it is, and attack it. Whenever I trim an artichoke, I imagine myself as the owl from the old Tootsie Roll Pop commercials: how many licks does it take to get to the center? A one, a two, a three, chomp.
This slideshow will explain two artichoke-trimming techniques: one for whole artichokes, the other for the hearts.