Week 19: Artichokes
Artichokes were used by the ancient Greeks and Romans for their medicinal and health benefiting qualities. Today, globe artichoke cultivation is concentrated in the countries bordering the Mediterranean basin, where more than 60% of the total world production occurs. In the United States, California provides nearly 100% of the U.S. crop.
Botanically, artichokes belong within the thistle family. The edible parts of the artichoke are the tender inner leaves (bracts) and the receptacle commonly known as the “heart.”
Artichokes are low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol. They are a good source of vitamin K, folate and fiber. In addition they contain niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, vitamin C, and manganese.
Helps lower cholesterol levels through the dietary fiber. Additional compounds within the artichokes also lower cholesterol by inhibiting cholesterol synthesis and increasing cholesterol excretion in the bile.
May help prevent neural tube defects in newborn babies due to the presence of folic acid (if taken in the diet during pre-conception period and during early pregnancy).
Acts as a prebiotic (a fermentable food for the bacteria in the colon) due to the presence of inulin.
Helps promote bone formation due to the presence of vitamin K.
Helps scavenge free radicals (through antioxidant flavonoids and vitamin C) which helps protect against oxidative damage to biological molecules, such as proteins, lipids and DNA.
Demonstrates significant liver protecting and regenerating effects through the active ingredient cynarin. They also have a choleretic effect (decongesting the liver), which decreases the risk of liver damage. Choleretics are very useful in the treatment of hepatitis and other liver diseases.
Selection and Storage:
In the store, choose fresh artichokes that feel heavy for their size and without any cuts or bruises. The leaves should be compact, dense and tight. This is a sign that they have been recently harvested.
Artichokes are best used while they are fresh. However, they can keep well if stored inside the refrigerator in a sealed plastic bag for up to a week.
Here is a wonderful video that describes how to prepare artichokes.
Here is an amazing recipe for roasted baby artichokes by chef Guy Fieri.