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Baby Artichokes: What Are They Anyway?

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Baby artichokes are one of those vegetables that while beloved, may also be a little misunderstood. Even if you seek them out over regular globe artichokes, do you know exactly what they are? Are they just young artichokes or are they their own vegetable altogether?

We cleared up baby carrots for you, so now it's time to turn to baby artichokes. They're spring vegetables, so you'll want to fully understand them in time to use them this season. Before long, you'll want to toss them in salads, grill them as side dishes and fry them to serve as appetizers. If you love artichokes like we do, you'll also love their babies.

  • Baby artichokes aren't younger versions of globe artichokes.
    Despite their name and popular belief, baby artichokes aren't immature globe artichokes.
  • Baby artichokes are fully mature artichokes -- they're just smaller!
    They grow on the same plant as globe artichokes and are harvested at the same.
  • The artichokes we call "baby" in the U.S. are smaller because they grow lower on the plant.
    GomezDavid via Getty Images
    Because they grow on the lower part of the stalk, the large artichoke shields baby artichokes from the sun, which effectively stunts their growth.
  • European baby artichokes, on the other hand, actually are young.
    Kelly Cline via Getty Images
    Unlike the American version that goes by the same name, European baby artichokes are baby -- or younger -- versions of globe artichokes. While American baby artichokes are harvested at the same time as the bigger versions, European baby artichokes are harvested early.
  • Unlike globe artichokes, the entire baby artichoke is edible.
    Kevin Summers via Getty Images
    While some may still need to be trimmed, their chokes and stems are edible, unlike a globe artichoke's.
  • The major producers of baby artichokes are Italy, Spain, and France.
    Matthew O'Shea via Getty Images
    All of these countries employ artichokes very well in their cuisines. In Italy you might find baby artichokes served raw and dressed with oil and lemon. In Spain they might be fried and in France they could be braised with garlic and herbs.
  • California is responsible for almost all of the baby artichokes produced in the U.S.
    James Lemass via Getty Images
    Thank you, California.
  • They're easier to prepare than globe artichokes.
    Photography by Alison Samborn via Getty Images
    Globe artichokes require removing the spines on the outer leaves, as well as the fibrous choke in the middle. They're really high maintenance compared to baby artichokes.
  • They're in season in spring!
    Kyle Crocker/500px
    See here for an easy, visual guide for preparing baby artichokes.

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