Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Artichoke - An Edible Flower Bud

That's right. The artichoke, also called globe artichoke,  is the flower bud of a type of thistle.  The perennial thistle cultivar that produces artichokes originated in southern Europe and spread throughout the Mediterranean area. The origins of the ancestors of this cultivar are unknown, but it is believed to have been northern Africa.  Arab horticulturists produced the cultivar from the wild species, and is documented in the Mediterranean area as early as the 9th century in Naples.

Artichokes are a very healthy vegetable. They are full of antioxidants, help lower cholesterol and artichoke leaf extract has been shown to reduce the symptoms of  Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

World artichoke production is centered in the Mediterranean area. the main producers are Spain, Italy and France. Almost 100% of commercial artichoke growing done in the United States is done in California, with the town of Castroville, CA.  proclaiming itself as "The Artichoke Center Of The World".

Artichokes are easy to prepare. Pick ones that are green and firm, with very little or no brown color. Trim the ends of the leaves to remove any thorns, and cut the stem so it is about one inch long. Steam them for 20-45 minutes according to size. The larger ones will take longer. Don't cover the steamer when you cook them, as this will allow certain oils to escape and prevent the artichoke from turning brown. Also put a sliced up lemon in the steaming water, a few cloves of crushed garlic, and a bay leaf. This will add flavor and help retain the green color.

To eat a cooked artichoke, remove the leaves one at a time and dip the large end in lemon butter, mayonnaise, or any other dip you prefer. Drag the end of the leaf over your teeth to remove the fleshy end of it, and move on to the next leaf. Once you get the large leaves eaten and are down to the smaller leaves and 'choke', remove all the leaves and scrape out the choke with a spoon.  What you have left is the 'heart' of the choke and is the best part. Cut into pieces, dip and enjoy!
My Zimbio