Pick one up. Go on. There are no spines on these, but you'd better spread your fingers wide; each one is bigger than your hand and weighs a pound or more.
When I saw this mound of artichokes at Sami's the other day, it was like stumbling on a field of exotic flowers, each one more lovely than the next. Most artichokes, of course, are green - like the specimens to the far right of this photo. But these all had that dark purple blush, and they were enormous and perfect, so of course I had to take a few home.
In the checkout line, a Quebecois man came up to me and asked, "Madame, what are those and how do you cook them?" I thought all French people ate artichokes! But of course I didn't say that, but explained how to prepare and steam them (for a long time, until the leaves separate easily from the stem and the flesh at the base can be scraped off easily with your teeth) and how to make a simple sauce for them (no hollandaise for us anymore; I usually use lowfat yogurt with extra lemon juice and maybe a little extra olive oil, or else just olive oil and lemon juice whisked together.)
Our artichokes did take a long time to cook in their steam bath. We ate them cold the next day...and the one after that, because each artichoke was too big to finish in one sitting. They were delicious, but much more beautiful in their raw abundance than on our plates.