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Artichoke: Jerusalem »

Artichoke Globe

Cynara scolymus


Description

A member of the thistle family, you’re most likely to find the globe artichoke preserved in oil or brine, but they are sometimes available fresh.

An orb of spiky leaves, the artichoke itself is the immature flower of a particular type of thistle. The part that you eat is the immature flower bud – by pulling off each leaf and scraping off the edible part with your teeth.

If you’re buying globe artichokes fresh, make sure they’re tightly closed, as loosely opened ones are past their best. Store them in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper of your fridge, and use as soon as possible.

Globe artichokes are high in vitamin C, folate and fibre, as well as several other essential minerals.

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History

The artichoke is thought to have originated in the Mediterranean, possibly in Sicily or the North African country now known as Tunisia. It is found in recipes throughout the world, from Italy to the Middle East.

Despite its long association with French cuisine, the artichoke was gracing Italian tables first. It didn’t arrive in France until the 16th century, when Catherine de Medici married Henry II and brought vegetables from home with her.

In the 19th century Spanish and French immigrants brought the artichoke into the Americas. Even today, they remain a common feature of French Creole cuisine in Louisiana.

Uses

Artichokes are often eaten steamed or boiled, with each leaf pulled off and eaten one-by-one with a dipping sauce such as aioli. Cooking takes about 20 minutes. A variation on this is to stuff them, jamming the stuffing between the leaves as much as possible, and baking.

Artichoke hearts are what remain when the outer leaves have been pulled off and the furry ‘choke’ inside discarded. This is the part you usually find preserved, and it has many uses, from pizza toppings to salads to dips.

Facts

Artichokes were once thought to possess aphrodisiac properties, and it was therefore considered improper for women to eat them.

Artichokes contain a chemical called cynarin, which leaves a sweet taste in the mouth. Wine doesn’t taste its best when consumed with this vegetable – try iced water instead.

Castroville, in Monterey County, California, calls itself ‘The Artichoke Center of the World’. Each May it holds the Castroville Artichoke Festival; in 1946 Marilyn Monroe was named the festival’s Artichoke Queen.



Artichoke: Jerusalem »

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