All about artichokes Toggle

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What’s not to love about artichokes? They’re delicious, nutritious and fun to cook and eat.

The Greek god Zeus apparently loved the globe artichoke so much, it became known as “the vegetable of the gods”. We’re not sure if he just boiled them or grilled them to use as a pizza topping.

In more modern times, they were briefly banned by the mayor of New York in the 1920s following “artichoke wars” initiated by Ciro Terranova — the “Artichoke King of New York”. It’s rumoured that the mayor lifted the ban a week or so later, because he couldn’t bear to live without artichokes!

Nutritional value

Artichokes are choc-full of good stuff, providing 16 essential nutrients including phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, chromium, potassium, iron, and calcium. They are also rich in fibre, vitamin A, vitamin B, and vitamin C, as well as folate. Artichokes are fat-free with only 25 calories for a medium artichoke. Serving Size: 1 Artichoke (edible portion) 56g Amount Per Serving:

  • Calories: 25 Calories
  • Protein: 2 g
  • Folic Acid: 10 mg
% Recommended Daily Value:
  • Cholesterol: 0%
  • Carbohydrates: 2%
  • Fat: 0%
  • Sodium: 3%
  • Potassium: 5%
  • Vitamin A: 2%
  • Vitamin B: 2%
  • Vitamin C: 10%
  • Vitamin E: 2%
  • Fibre: 12%
  • Folate: 10%
  • Calcium: 2%
  • Copper: 2%
  • Chromium: 8%
  • Iron: 2%
  • Thiamin: 2%
  • Phosphorus: 6%
  • Magnesium: 10%
  • Manganese: 8%
There is currently a large amount of research being conducted on the phytochemicals contained within the artichoke, and the plant has been found to be rich in the phytochemicals cynarine and silymarin. Cynarine stimulates the production of bile helping the digestion of fats. It also stimulates the taste buds and brings out any sweet flavours of food that is eaten after the artichokes. Silymarin is a powerful antioxidant which may aid the liver in regenerative tissue growth. The phytochemicals contained in the artichoke plant are being investigated for their anti-microbial, anti-oxidative, hepato-protective, and choloretic activities. Because artichokes are so full of nutrients and phytochemicals many health researchers believe eating them may contribute to the prevention of certain types of heart disease, cancer, and birth defects. To put all this into plain English... artichokes are very good for you!

How to select an artichoke

How do you choose the perfect artichoke? Here are some of the things you should look and feel for:

  • The leaves of the bud should be tight, not "blooming." If you run your thumb over the top of the bud the leaves should not separate. Although with the Imperial Star variety, the leaves on the bud are a little bit more separated.
  • Squish the artichoke lightly -- if it makes a squeaking noise it is fresh.
  • The artichoke should have some weight to it. A heavier weight usually indicated more water and thus a fresher artichoke.
  • The larger the artichoke doesn’t necessarily mean it has a bigger heart, if this is what you are after. If you look down the stem to the base of the artichoke, there is a little bit of an indentation that can be seen in the leaves. This usually gives an idea of how big the heart is. This does take practice though, so eat a lot to be able to predict it accurately!
  • Good artichokes should have a little bit of a glossy sheen to them.

How to cook artichokes

Many people are put off from cooking an artichoke just by looking at the fearsome plant! But actually, they're very easy to prepare. Here's one of the best ways to cook an artichoke to perfection:

  1. Cut off the the tip of the stem
  2. Some people like to cut off the top 1/3 of the artichoke. However, this is unnecessary if you're just after a quick snack. However, if presentation is important to you for a dinner party or suchlike, then this is something you can do to get rid of the thorns.
  3. Place the artichokes in a large pot -- ideally so they are standing on their stems
  4. Fill the pot with water about 2/3 up the way of the artichoke
  5. Now simply boil
  6. Depending on the size of the artichoke it can take 20-30 min to be fully cooked
  7. If a leaf can be easily pulled off it's ready
  8. Remember to drain out the water from inside the artichoke by tipping it upside down

How to eat artichokes

OK, now for the fun part! To eat your artichoke, take off each leaf -- starting at the base of the artichoke -- dip it in melted garlic or rosemary butter and pull the base of the leaf through your teeth to scrape off the edible portion. Discard the rest of the leaf. As you move up the artichoke, the leaves become more tender, until you finally reach the "hairy" choke (the undeveloped flower). Removing the choke leaves you with the tasty artichoke heart!