If it feels heavy for its size and squeaks when squeezed, you’ve found a fresh artichoke. Brown spots on the outer leaves of winter artichokes are okay; they’re simply a sign of frost. Artichokes are most plentiful in spring and again in fall. They require a bit of prep work, but the meaty texture and tangy-sweet flavor are worth it.
For an appetizer or side dish, slice off the top third, snip the tough outside leaves, and steam whole artichokes stem side down; dip the outer leaves in butter. Or trim the leaves and choke completely and parboil the bottoms for a flavorful sauté, a warming gratin, a soup, or a dip.