What’s so special about an artichoke you might say? It looks funny and not something that should be eaten. It resembles a flower that just didn’t bloom.
While all of this may be a true perception, the artichoke is actually a very healthy food that is fun to eat. Here is a little history about this “non-flowering” flower. Artichokes are native to the south of Europe. In the United States, we grow them but in Europe they are wild. The stem of this beauty is thick and ends in a large globe that resembles a thistle.
It is the immature-looking head that is eaten. But not just any heads are eaten. When an artichoke is ready to be picked, the head, or globe, is a dark green color and heavy to the hands. The leaves are closely packed around the heart of the flower. Once the leaves open, the artichoke is considered overripe and not to be eaten by itself.
The best time to pick artichokes is in spring (March to May). How close to the stalk you cut an artichoke is up to you. Some people leave about an inch or so of the stalk on the head.
Once you have picked an artichoke, either in the field or in the store, it is time to clean them. It is not advised that you clean veggies or fruits until you are ready to use them. Once they are cleaned, their shelf life decreases.
Hold the artichoke upside down under running water. Any earthly critters that are clinging between the leaves will be washed out. Before cooking, remove the smaller leaves that are close to the base. The part of the leaf that you eat is at the bottom. You can trim the sharp tips of the leaves or even the top inch of the artichoke itself. It is mostly preference. To keep the artichoke from turning colors, soak it in a solution of water and lemon juice until ready to use.
Artichokes can be enjoyed steamed or boiled for a wholesome addition to your meal. Each medium artichoke contains about sixty calories. When you eat it, you will pull off the leaves and eat the inside lower third of the leaf. Once all the leaves are stripped away, the heart is also edible.
Artichokes also have a surprising amount of protein per serving – 4 grams. The fat is minimal as well as the carbohydrate count and the amount of sodium. They are a good source of fiber with around 6 grams in each serving.
Want a healthy side dish or soup that is filling and less fattening? Try artichokes. They provide a lot of nutrition for very few calories.