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by Christina Wilson

Artichokes are a fun vegetable with a lot of nutrients including polyphenols and prebiotics. 

Polyphenols are antioxidants, which fight the harmful effects of free radicals. Free radicals cause cell and DNA damage, so eating foods which are rich in antioxidants can help prevent damage and downstream effects.  Prebiotics are a type of fiber which serves as food for probiotics, Prebiotics fermentation by gut microbiota produce short-chain fatty acids, which improve the gut barrier integrity and function, and modulate the glucose and lipid metabolism as well as the inflammatory response and immune system.

Growing up in the 70’s, I remember my mother serving whole artichokes with hot butter at dinner parties and I thought they were the epitome of chic.

Greek mythology holds Zeus responsible for the creation of the artichoke. After being rejected by a beautiful young woman, the god turned his object of affection into a thorny and difficult thistle. Tough on the outside and soft on the inside, artichokes are well versed in the game of hard-to-get. 

How To Cook and Eat an Artichoke

Ingredients

  • 1 or more large globe artichokes

  • 1-2 cloves garlic, cut in half (can leave skin on)

  • bay leaf

  • 1 slice lemon

Method

  1. Cut off the tips of the leaves:

    If the artichokes have little thorns on the ends of their leaves, take kitchen scissors and cut off the tips. This step is mostly for aesthetics as the thorns soften with cooking and pose no threat to the person eating the artichoke. But snipping them off will make the artichokes easier to handle.

  2. Slice off the top of the artichoke:

    Slice about 3/4 inch to an inch off the tip of the artichoke. A serrated bread knife works great for this.

  3. Remove small leaves at the base:

    Pull off any smaller leaves towards the base and on the stem.

  4. Cut off excess stem:

    Cut off excess stem, leaving up to an inch on the artichoke. The stems can be more bitter than the rest of the artichoke, but some people like to eat them. The inner cores of the stems taste like the heart.

    Alternatively, you can leave the whole long stem on the artichoke, just cut off the very end of the stem, and peel the tough outside layer of the stem with a vegetable peeler.

  5. Rinse the artichokes:

    Rinse the artichokes in running cold water. While you rinse them, open up the leaves a little so that the water gets inside more easily. (This is where it helps to have cut off the thorny tips, it makes the artichoke easier to open without getting poked!)

  6. Set up a pot with some water, aromatics, and a steaming basket:

    In a large pot, put a couple inches of water, the garlic, a slice of lemon, and a bay leaf (this adds wonderful flavor to the artichokes). Insert a steaming basket.

  7. Steam the artichokes:

    Place artichokes on top of the steaming basket. Cover the pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer.

    Cook for 25 to 35 minutes or longer, until the outer leaves can easily be pulled off. Note you may need to add more water to the pot if the level drops too low, so keep an eye on it.

Whole artichokes may be eaten cold or hot. They are usually served with a dip, either melted butter or mayonnaise. 

  1. Pull off the leaves and dip:

    Pull off the outer leaves, one at a time. Dip the white fleshy end in melted butter, a vinaigrette, or sauce.

  2. Place light end in mouth, dip side down, pull, scraping through your teeth:

    Tightly grip the other end of the petal. Place in mouth, dip side down, and pull through teeth to remove soft, pulpy, delicious portion of the petal. Discard remaining petal.

    Continue until all of the petals are removed.

    When you get to the tender inner leaves with the purple tips, you can remove them all at once. Dip and eat just the light colored parts of these leaves.

  3. Scrape out the choke:

    With a knife or spoon, scrape out and discard the inedible fuzzy part (called the "choke") covering the artichoke heart.

  4. Cut the heart into pieces and eat:

    Underneath the artichoke choke is the heart. Cut the heart into pieces and dip into melted butter, a vinaigrette, or a sauce to eat.

  5. You can also pressure cook grill, or simple open a jar of organic artichoke hearts.

  6. When shopping, look for a vibrant green choke that “talks back” when you snap the leaves. The more defined the squeak, the fresher the vegetable. Artichokes have a mild flavor and work well in a very wide variety of dishes

Nutrition info: One medium artichoke contains 60 calories, 13 grams of carbohydrate, 7 grams of fiber, approximately 260 of polyphenols, and a low glycemic index of 15.

While artichokes are available all year long, the main harvest season in Italy and in the U.S. is March through May.

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Christina Wilson
Christina Wilson

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