Most vegetables are friendly. They have bright colors, smooth shapes and are delightful to pick and prepare. They are friendly, even gregarious — but not the artichoke. This standoffish veg doesn’t want to be sociable at all. Its rough exterior is full of self-protecting thorns. If you didn’t know any better you might want to ignore this curmudgeon altogether. But not us, we know that underneath that ill-mannered rough exterior lies some tender leaves and a soft-hearted center. Take a look at Chef Jeremy’s ideas on how to kindly cook an artichoke and you’ll see what I mean.
There are lots of reasons to want to get to know the artichoke better. It hangs out in lovely cuisines like Italian, French, Spanish and Egyptian. Its cultivation and consumption goes back to the days of ancient Greeks and Romans, and it even grew in King Henry VIII’s garden. It’s a relative of the thistle so it comes by its off-putting attitude rightly but on the other hand it has a sweet side to its story. A chemical found in its pulp, leaves and tender heart called Cynarine actually has an effect on our taste receptors that causes food and beverages to taste sweeter. You see! Deep down inside.
There are lots of benefits to befriending the artichoke. It is high in anti-oxidant content, in fact it has one of the highest of any vegetable. It has the ability to reduce cholesterol, diminish heart disease and fats in the blood. It is also beneficial to the gut because it has the ability to arrest pathogenic bacteria and potentially reduce irritation. “The artichoke is low in calories and fat; 100 g of this flower bud just carries 47 calories. Nonetheless, it is a rich source of dietary fiber and anti-oxidants. It provides 5.4 g per 100 g, about 14% of RDA fiber. Dietary-fiber helps control constipation conditions, decreases bad or ‘LDL’ cholesterol levels by binding to it in the intestines and helps cut down colon cancer risks by preventing toxic compounds in the food from absorption. It is one of the very good vegetable sources for vitamin K; provide about 12% of DRI. Vitamin K has potential role in bone health by promoting osteotrophic (bone formation) activity. Adequate vitamin-K levels in the diet help limiting neuronal damage in the brain; thus, has established role in the treatment of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.”*