Processed Artichoke Hearts
How we tested
Choosing processed artichoke hearts is like looking for twigs in a forest. There are so many kinds—how can you possibly pick? Our first step was to eliminate the marinated kind, since we prefer to control seasonings ourselves. A few tests ruled out quartered hearts: Whether frozen or packed in water in jars or cans, quartered hearts tended to taste waterlogged and have large, tough leaves. We also learned that “quarters” is a misnomer: It’s industry jargon for any size cut between quarters and eighths. So even if the pieces appear small, they could be from big, mature artichoke hearts.
The next category was whole canned hearts. But these also tended to be big, with leathery outer leaves. In the end, smaller whole jarred artichoke hearts labeled “baby” or “cocktail” proved best. (If the label doesn’t say this, look for specimens no larger than 1 1/2 inches in length.) In a tasting of three national products packed in brine, we found all perfectly acceptable. Flavors were consistent: Whether lemony or earthy, all were fairly mild, with a lingering briny sweetness. With tender meat and delicate leaves, these products had no textural flaws to detract from their bright, creamy, slightly acidic flavor.