From a distance I thought I was still in Scotland and that I was seeing a thistle! No - this is a globe artichoke!
Confusingly, three different, unrelated plants are all known by this name. The globe artichoke is related to the thistle. Its leaves are edible, as is the bottom part of the flower, called the heart (which you can also buy canned or frozen). The Jerusalem artichoke belongs to the sunflower family and it is the plant’s underground tubers that are eaten. They are rather knobbly and irregular in shape, with a pale brown or purple-red skin. The Chinese artichoke is a perennial herb of the mint family, grown for its edible tuberous underground stems. It has a sweet, nutty taste, similar to the Jerusalem artichoke. It’s much more difficult to find in shops than globe or Jerusalem artichokes.
Young globe artichoke buds can be cooked and eaten whole. Later, they still make a delicious starter boiled whole and served with melted butter, mayonnaise, hollandaise or vinaigrette. Break off each leaf and draw the soft fleshy base through your teeth, then pull or slice off the hairy ‘choke’ and eat the heart and the meaty bottom with the remaining sauce.
To prepare raw artichokes, cut the artichoke in half, through the 'equator' with a serrated knife. Discard the tops of the artichokes. Remove and discard the stem and pull off the tough outer leaves at the base. Trim around the base of the artichoke to remove what remains of the tough outer leaves from the sides and base, removing all of the dark green to leave only the white part. Then carefully remove the hairy 'choke' in the middle of the artichoke with a spoon and discard. You'll be left with the artichoke heart or 'fond'.