Suppression

Artichokes

Category: Food

Type

Voluntary

Introduction and description

The globe artichoke - Cynara cardunculus var. Scolymus – as opposed to the Jerusalem artichoke [which is described in another section] is a species of thistle cultivated as a food.

The edible portion of the plant consists of the flower buds before the flowers come into bloom. The budding artichoke flower-head is a cluster of many small flowers (an inflorescence) hidden by many bracts, on an edible base. The edible portion of the bud consists primarily of the fleshy lower portion of the bracts [the bits that look like leaves but aren't] and the base, known as the "heart".

The mass of immature flowers in the centre of the bud is called the "choke" or beard. These are inedible and indeed do 'choke'. Once the buds bloom the whole structure changes to a coarse, inedible form.

The uncultivated or wild variety of the species is called a cardoon. 

The artichoke is a perennial plant native to the Mediterranean region and the main output still comes from this region with Italy, Egypt, Spain, Morocco and France being big producers. It is now also grown in both North and South America.

Background

These days we only eat the bud of the artichoke, but in Ancient Greece and Rome both the bud and the leaves were eaten. The plant spread to Spain and France via Arab traders. The Arabs improved the plant.

 

Le Roy Ladurie, -Les Paysans de Languedoc
The blossom of the thistle, improved by the Arabs, passed from Naples to Florence in 1466, carried by Filippo Strozzi. Towards 1480 it is noticed in Venice, as a curiosity. But very soon veers towards the northwest...Artichoke beds are mentioned in Avignon by the notaries from 1532 onward; from the principle towns they spread into the hinterlands ... appearing as carchofas at Cavaillon in 1541, at Chateauneuf du Pape in 1553, at Orange in 1554. The local name remains carchofas, from the Italian carciofo...They are very small, the size of a hen's egg...and are still considered a luxury, a vaguely aphrodisiac tidbit that one preserved in sugar syrup.

Their luxury status was partly derived from the fact that the plant is a big plant - it can reach 2 metres - taking up a lot of valuable growing land, and the resulting artichoke heart and bracts are tiny by comparison.
Artichokes have long been regarded as having health giving properties.

 

The artichoke, Cynara scolymus, is one of the most ancient plants grown in the world, and its extracts, obtained from different parts of the plant (leaves, fruits and roots), have been used as medicaments from time immemorial. The pharmacological and therapeutic effects of the artichoke on the liver had already been well known in the 17th century. Modern studies started in the last century confirmed the stimulating properties of artichoke extracts on the liver and gallbladder. The ensuing wave of research was initially focused on the patent liver-stimulating, diuretic and choleretic effects exerted by artichoke preparations on both animals and man, then discovering such other therapeutic properties as the hypolipemizing activity, antioxidant activity and hypoglycemizing activity. This review enumerates the most significant studies that have highlighted these therapeutic properties. PMID: 23923586

It is however important to realise that a number of these benefits are said to derive from the leaves rather than the bud, as such although munching an artichoke heart is a very pleasurable experience, it may not act as a diuretic, whereas eating the leaves might. This probably means that to get the full effects of artichokes you do need to grow your own, or be near someone – a local farmer – who does.

In addition to the benefits mentioned above, there have been studies that seem to show that artichokes are a great help to our Intestinal flora, though until I find specific Pubmed papers on this I am unable to tell you whether it is the plant as a whole, the leaves, heart or bracts that help here.

Method

Artichokes are often bought in non-producing countries bottled and already cooked and stored in olive oil.

If you are lucky enough to live in a region where you can get really fresh artichokes then they can be simply boiled and eaten just as they are. To eat you remove each bract and dip them in butter, hollandaise sauce, mayonnaise, aioli, lemon juice and olive oil or other sauces. I quite like them with an anchovy and caper mayonnaise - but then I am a bit quirky.

You dip the bract in the sauce and suck the flesh out - this then leaves a sort of outer covering from the bract which is discarded.  When all the bracts have been eaten, the inedible choke is carefully removed from the base and thrown away. You can then eat the heart.

The bottled hearts are delicious in a salad of squeezed lemons, cooked baby broad beans and cooked baby peas with virgin olive oil.  Green olives added to this are an extra bonus and you can use the lemon zest too, to add a real touch of sophistication.  This salad goes well with grilled or BBQ'd tuna.

The artichoke hearts can also be used in combination with olives, mushrooms and prosciutto on pizzas. You can stuff artichokes [removing the choke beforehand of course], barbecue them, put them in paellas and add them to tortillas. An artichoke heart is concave so is ideal for stuffing. In Lebanon, for example, "the typical filling would include lamb, onion, tomato, pinenuts, raisins, parsley, dill, mint, black pepper, and allspice". A popular Turkish vegetarian variety uses onion, carrot, green peas, and salt.

 If stuffed they go well with tahini sauce.

Often cited is the Greek, aginares a la polita, a hearty, savory stew made with artichoke hearts, potatoes, and carrots, and flavored with onion, lemon, and dill.”

Artichoke is the primary flavor of the 33-proof (16.5%-alcohol) Italian liqueur Cynar. 

Nutrients

11007, Artichokes, (globe or french), raw  Nutrient values and weights are for edible portion National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 26   Software v.1.3.1

Nutrient

Uni

Value per 100 g

Proximates

Water

g

84.94

Energy

kcal

47

Protein

g

3.27

Total lipid (fat)

g

0.15

Carbohydrate, by difference

g

10.51

Fiber, total dietary

g

5.4

Sugars, total

g

0.99

Minerals

Calcium, Ca

mg

44

Iron, Fe

mg

1.28

Magnesium, Mg

mg

60

Phosphorus, P

mg

90

Potassium, K

mg

370

Sodium, Na

mg

94

Zinc, Zn

mg

0.49

Vitamins

Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid

mg

11.7

Thiamin

mg

0.072

Riboflavin

mg

0.066

Niacin

mg

1.046

Vitamin B-6

mg

0.116

Folate, DFE

µg

68

Vitamin B-12

µg

0.00

Vitamin A, RAE

µg

1

Vitamin A, IU

IU

13

Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)

mg

0.19

Vitamin D (D2 + D3)

µg

0.0

Vitamin D

IU

0

Vitamin K (phylloquinone)

µg

14.8

Lipids

Fatty acids, total saturated

g

0.036

Fatty acids, total monounsaturated

g

0.005

Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated

g

0.064

Cholesterol

mg

0

A Warning

Eat artichokes as a vegetable, eat the leaves as a vegetable and there are health benefits according to Pubmed.  But it is noticeable that the latest dietary supplement to enter the market is artichoke leaf extract and it has produced cases of poisoning from overdose.  Please note the following.

 

Artichoke leaves are used in traditional medicine as an herbal medicament for the treatment of hepatic related diseases, as well as choleretic and diuretic. …... The data obtained in this study suggests that high concentrations of artichoke can pose a risk associated to its consumption. PMID: 23274746

 

How it works

see observations.

Related observations