Artichokes are one of the most versatile, visually fascinating, and delicious vegetables. It is a popular plant used in restaurants in Europe and the United States of America. It is the immature flower bud of a thistle plant in the genus Cynara. The base and the innermost part of the vegetable’s leaf are tender, soft, and safe to consume.
While the artichoke heart is the meatier part of the vegetable, the center part of the stem when properly cooked is also edible. Unlike other vegetables like spinach and cabbage, artichokes can be stressful to prepare sometimes and you would need to do some extra work to get to the meaty heart.
What do artichokes taste like? Artichokes have an earthy, herbaceous, sweet, and subtle taste that makes it a perfect combination in a variety of dishes. The flowers of artichoke have a crunchy and soft flavor while the meaty heart of the vegetable is softer and has a more intense flavor. The taste and flavor of the artichoke heart are often compared to that of celery, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts.
While raw artichokes have a firm but crispy texture and a bitter taste, cooking them will soften the texture and allow them to give a taste that blends well with other food.
The method of cooking will affect the taste and texture of the vegetable. It is not all artichokes that are edible, only baby artichokes do well in the kitchen and our mouths.
Nutritional Benefits of Artichokes
The meaty heart, flower, and extracts of the artichoke are very beneficial and contain a reasonable amount of nutrients, minerals, and compounds that are beneficial to the human body system. It has been used for years by a large number of people because of its potential medicinal properties.
The thistle plant brags well of being the best antioxidant-rich vegetable. It is a fiber-rich vegetable with a content of 7-gram which constitutes 23-28% of the daily required intake. This fiber helps maintain a healthy bowel movement, helps in maintaining a low blood sugar level, and aids in getting healthy and improving body weight.
Artichokes are a great source of potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, folate, vitamin C, and vitamin K. The potassium obtained from the vegetable’s extract is essential in reducing diastolic and systolic blood pressure. Also, it helps promote enzymes that help widen the blood vessels, thereby improving the flow of blood to various parts of the body.
The artichoke leaf prevents liver inflammation. It aids the production of bile, which is useful in combating harmful toxins in the liver. It also prevents the liver from damage by non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases and promotes the growth of new tissues. Also, it helps provide relief from bloating, nausea, heartburn, and alleviates constipation.
Antioxidants like rutin, quercetin, gallic acid, and silymarin present in artichokes have anticancer effects. Recent laboratory research has shown that these compounds help in preventing and treating the effect of skin cancer. Additionally, artichokes contain a lot of plant-based proteins that are useful in reducing the risk of coronary heart diseases.
Culinary Uses of Artichokes
Artichokes can be made edible by boiling, braising, baking, steaming, or stuffing the heart in poultry. Boiling artichokes is the simplest to cook and lose the luscious green color that they have.
Cut the tip of the artichoke flower to expose the inner part and submerge it in a pot of boiling water. Allow it to boil for about 30 minutes and until the petals start to fall off. You can then pick out the boiled individual leaf and dip it in sauce to enhance its taste. After eating the leaf to the meaty heart, scoop out the cholesterol found in it to enjoy the meat.
Also, Pan-frying artichokes are an excellent method of cooking it. This method helps caramelize the sugar in the vegetable. To prepare this dish, toss artichoke wedges with seasoning in a pan of heated olive oil and allow it to fry for about three to five minutes until it becomes brown.
The taste of artichoke can be boosted by grilling it. Before you place them on the grill, cut the artichoke into half and allow it to cook in a steamer until it gets slightly soft. This is because the vegetables do not do well under dry heat.
You can brush the slightly soft artichoke with olive oil and place it on the grill for a few minutes until it has a perfect grill mark. Pair this grilled artichoke with aioli, dipping sauce, or any type of creamy sauce.
Where are Artichokes Grown? How Do You Procure Them?
The vegetable is native to the Mediterranean region. Most of the world’s supply of artichoke comes from France, Italy, and Spain. The vegetable also known as green artichoke was introduced to England by Dutch traders in 1530 where it was grown in Henry VIII’s garden in Newhall. Its popularity spread to the United States of America in the 19th century when French immigrants brought it to California and Louisiana.
Recently, 100% of artichoke heart’s supply in the US comes from farms in California. The vegetables peak just twice a year but the preserved form is found in farmer’s markets and grocery stores all year round. Before you purchase it, make sure the artichoke is heavy, the leaves are closed, and don’t squeak when squeezed.
To procure it, all you have to do is peel the tough outer leaves, trim the stem and cook in any preferred manner. Uncooked artichokes can be stored in the freezer to prevent them from spoiling.
What Part of the Artichoke is Poisonous?
While other parts of the vegetable are edible and sweet, the thorny and fibrous outer portion of the leaf is not edible. Also, the hairy choke inside the vegetable is poisonous. The choke is edible and not poisonous but consuming it is deemed stressful and has a choking hazard.
Facts You Didn’t Know About Artichokes
- In Vietnam, artichoke leaves are ground and used to make tea.
- Up till the 16th century, women were not allowed to eat artichokes because it was believed to have aphrodisiac properties
- If the artichoke flower is allowed to grow, it would have a violet-blue color and can measure up to a diameter of seven inches.