Though a striking plant with a large and stunning purple flower, the spiny leaves and stem of the artichoke plant are not inviting to the touch. I wonder how anyone could have guessed that the flower’s spiky-armored bud would contain anything edible? And not merely edible, but creamy and delightful, packed with fiber, vitamins and even calcium.
The artichoke may be hard to eat, but the phytonutrients make it worth the effort. A hefty combination of antioxidants work together to create a heart-healthy, cholesterol-lowering food. Some of these plant nutrients even have anti-cancer and immune-boosting properties.
And now, how to get at all that nutritional goodness? Typically, artichokes are steamed and the softened petals are pulled off, dipped into a sauce (try them with balsamic vinegar!). The pulpy part is also eaten. This soft hearts make a great addition to green salads. If you’re an ambitious chef, try stuffed artichoke or artichoke with saffron and almonds. How about baby artichokes with potatoes, fresh herbs and lemon? Sounds delish.
The artichoke is a plant of Mediterranean origin and legend has it that the Greek god Zeus became smitten by a beautiful girl but when he was rejected, turned her turned into an artichoke plant. But the artichoke’s real claim to fame may be Norma Jean Baker’s 1947 crowning as the very first Queen of Artichokes in Castroville, CA, giving her a boost early in her career as the soon-to-be Marilyn Monroe.
So gods and starlets alike, get your steamers out and check back soon for an original artichoke recipe by EcoSalon’s very own chef writer, Vanessa Barrington. Ciao!