International Produce Training

Artichokes- Field Freezing

If you have inspected artichokes recently, you may have come across this defect.

  Yes, this is a defect.  You may have been told that these “frosted” artichokes actually may taste better.  Regardless, the appearance is still materially affected, thus these artichokes would be scored as a defect.  So what is it?  While the artichokes are growing, freezing temperatures (30 to 31°F) can cause the damage.

The cold temperatures freeze the artichokes, causing the moisture in the cells of the outer epidermis to crystallize.  When the crystals form they rupture the cell walls, damaging, or killing the cells.  The affect is the peeling and feathering you see in the above image.

The USDA realizes the freezing injury could occur while growing, or could occur in transit or storage, so they instruct their inspectors to refrain from calling the defect “field freezing.”  Instead the defect is described as “peeling and feathering.”  The damaged area will oxidize and become discolored in later stages.  The discoloration may range from a light brown to black color.  Because this defect progresses, it is to be classified as a condition defect.

Peeling a feathering may be scored as damage, if materially affecting the appearance, or as serious damage, if seriously affecting the appearance.  The artichoke shown in the top image would be scored as serious damage.  The U.S. Standards for artichokes do not include a restrictive tolerance for serious damage.  If you find damage or serious damage by peeling and feathering, the artichokes would be scored against the 10% tolerance, for total defects. 

Getting back to the assertion about tasting better, I have never seen any conclusive evidence supporting that claim, but I am welcome to hear any one’s opinion.

4 Comments on “Artichokes- Field Freezing”

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Stephanie Says:

I recently had some ‘frost kissed’ artichokes. They were quite simply the BEST I have ever had. Two of them were completely edible on the inside, including that fuzzy bitter part on the heart. It was soft and edible and the inside leaves were completely edible. A much larger portion (about 3″ to 4″ of the stems were completely edible. I have always thought this was such an odd dish and that the person that first tried eating an artichoke must has been starving and disappointed until reaching the center. After having those, I had to rush out and buy more the next day.

Stephanie Says:

BTW, how do you tell if an artichoke is earlier than another? Does that have any bearing on the insides being better & completely edible as well as the stem being completely edible? Is there a better time to buy them that way?

tyawman Says:

Stephanie, thanks for your comments! I don’t know if there is a way to tell if an artichoke was picked earlier than another. When harvested, all artichokes have reached the proper stage of maturity, ensuring they are ready to eat.

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