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A HISTORY OF ARTICHOKES
Artichokes have been a part of Mediterranean cuisine for thousands of years. Some food historians attribute the cultivation of artichokes to the Romans and Greeks, while others insist that those civilizations first used wild cardoon or cardone, the artichoke's thistle-family cousin, and that the artichoke was developed from the cardoon in North Africa by Muslim agronomists. Or, Syria may have domesticated the artichoke, based on a reference from the ninth century.
Whoever was responsible, we can be grateful for their long-ago efforts, and for the hundreds of uniquely wonderful artichoke preparations ranging from Arabic couscous-stuffed artichokes to Spanish baby artichoke tapas, to Italian carciofi alla Romana, to Syrian artichoke hearts with olive oil.
Ancient Romans considered artichokes a delicacy and an aphrodisiac. After Rome fell, artichokes became scarce but re-emerged during the Renaissance in 1466 when the Strozzi family brought them from Florence to Naples. Gradually, artichokes spread to other sections of Europe. In the 16th century Catherine de Medici, married to King Henry II of France at the age of 14, and is credited with making artichokes famous there, along with other Italian favorites.
French immigrants brought artichokes to the United States in 1806 when they settled in the Louisiana Territory. Though the first commercial artichoke fields were developed in Louisiana they mysteriously disappeared by 1940. Meanwhile, artichokes were also established in California's Monterey area by the Spaniards. It was Italian and French families who started growing artichokes in the Mediterranean-like climate of California's Central Coast, particularly in and around Castroville, the Artichoke Center of the U.S. Today, almost all artichokes grown commercially in the United States are grown in California.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF ARTICHOKES
The ancients considered artichokes to have many benefits. Artichokes, including leaves, were thought to be an aphrodisiac, a diuretic, a breath freshener and even a deodorant. Decoctions of artichoke leaves have been used as blood cleansers, cholerics, to improve bile production and secretion and to detox the liver and the skin.
The new information about phytochemicals contained in vegetables and fruits is confirming some of these ancient claims. Research is now underway to determine the phytochemicals in artichokes, and work continues to define the role these phytochemicals play in maintaining good health and preventing disease.
Current research is showing benefits to the liver from cynarin, a compound found in the artichoke's leaves. Silymarin is another compound found in artichokes that has powerful antioxidant properties and may help the liver regenerate healthy tissue.
Artichokes are nutrient dense, so, for the 25 calories in a medium artichoke, you are getting 16 essential nutrients! Artichokes provide the important minerals magnesium, chromium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, iron and calcium. For example, that 25 calorie artichoke provides 6 percent of the Recommended Daily Value of phosphorus, 10 percent of magnesium, 8 percent of manganese, 10 percent of chromium, 5 percent of potassium, 4 percent of iron and 2 percent of calcium and iron. In addition to all these important minerals, artichokes are a good source of fiber (12 percent of the RDV), vitamin C (10 percent of the RDV), and folate (10 percent of the RDV). Artichokes are low in calories and sodium, have no fat and no cholesterol. All this means that artichokes, as a part of a low-fat, high-fiber diet, can help reduce the risk of certain types of heart disease, cancers and birth defects.
The artichoke, cynara scolymus, is actually a member of the thistle family, although its leaves are bigger, broader and soft rather than prickly. Artichoke plants are quite beautiful, like giant ferns - six feet in diameter and three to four feet high. It is the heart at the base of the flower bud produced by the plant that is prized for its delicate flavor and its versatility at the table.
New Long Stem Artichokes: Long stem roses have been admired for many years for their classic beauty. Now there's a new long stem to join that exclusive group: long stem artichokes. There are several varieties of Artichokes including Globe (common in supermarkets), Purple Sicilian, Wild, Cardoon (a cousin of the artichoke.)
Almost all of the artichokes seen in supermarkets come from the rich soil just along the coast and inland from Monterey Bay, where the cool, moist mornings and warm, sunny afternoons provide perfect growing conditions. The artichoke, in fact, is the official vegetable of Monterey County, California.
The winter and early spring artichokes are grown in Southern California's Coachella Valley, where the winter climate is much like the Central Coast's spring and fall weather, except that it is drier. Artichokes are available throughout the year but peak seasons are spring (March through May) and fall/winter (September through December). Spring artichokes are compact, firm and heavy for their size. Baby artichokes are also plentiful in the spring. Summer artichokes tend to have longer thorns and their leaves are more open in appearance. Winter artichokes are more conical in shape. Some fall and winter artichokes may be touched by frost - winter kissed - and have a light bronze to brown tint to the outer leaves. Artichoke fans prefer the winter kissed artichokes for the nutty, rich flavor. The winter artichokes do revert to their grey-green color when cooked.
Scientific Name: Cynara Scolymus
Artichoke Nutrient Units 1 Medium Artichoke
Proximates Water g 108.723 Energy kcal 60.160 Energy kj 252.160 Protein g 4.186 Total Lipid (Fat) g 0.192 Carbohydrate, By Difference g 13.453 Fiber, Total Dietary g 6.912 Fiber, Soluble g 1.446 Minerals Calcium, Ca mg 56.320 Iron, Fe mg 1.638 Magnesium, Mg mg 76.800 Phosphorus, P mg 115.200 Potassium, K mg 473.600 Sodium, Na mg 120.320 Zinc, Zn mg 0.627 Copper, Cu mg 0.296 Manganese, Mn mg 0.328 Selenium, Se mcg 0.256 Vitamins Vitamin A, IU IU 236.800 Vitamin A, RE mcg RE 23.040 Thiamin - B-1 mg 0.092 Riboflavin - B-2 mg 0.084 Niacin - B-3 mg 1.339 Pantothenic Acid - B-5 mg 0.433 Vitamin B-6 mg 0.148 Folate - B-9 mcg 87.040 Vitamin B-12 mcg 0.000 Vitamin C, Ascorbic Acid mg 14.976 Vitamin E mg ATE 0.243 Lipids Fatty Acids, Saturated g 0.045 4:0 Butyric g 0.000 6:0 Caproic g 0.000 8:0 Caprylic g 0.000 10:0 Capric g 0.000 12:0 Lauric g 0.003 14:0 Myristic g 0.003 16:0 Palmitic g 0.037 18:0 Stearic g 0.004 Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated g 0.006 18:1 Oleic g 0.006 20:1 Eicosen g 0.000 22:1 Erucic g 0.000 Fatty Acids, Polyunsaturated g 0.081 18:2 Linoleic g 0.059 18:3 Linolenic g 0.022 18:4 Stearidon g 0.000 20:4 Arachidon g 0.000 20:5 EPA g 0.000 22:5 DPA g 0.000 22:6 DHA g 0.000 Cholesterol mg 0.000
ARTICHOKE USE & RECIPES INFORMATION
The artichoke is a perennial in the thistle group of the sunflower family and is believed to be a native of the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands. In full growth, the plant spreads to cover an area about six feet in diameter and reaches a height of three to four feet. The "vegetable" that we eat is actually the plant's flower bud. If allowed to flower, the blossoms measure up to seven inches in diameter and are a beautiful violet-blue color. They are available twelve months a year with the peak season in the spring and fall. There are more than 140 artichoke varieties but less than 40 are grown commercially. Today most artichokes grown worldwide are cultivated in France, Italy, and Spain, while California provides nearly 100 percent of the United States crop. One hundred percent of all artichokes grown commercially in the United States are grown in California. Artichoke fields are maintained in perennial culture for five to ten years. Each cropping cycle is initiated by "cutting back" the tops of the plants several inches below the soil surface to stimulate development of new shoots. The operation called "stumping," is timed to regulate the new harvest season.
When shopping for artichokes you want to look for a tight, compact leaves and a fresh, green stem. One medium to large artichoke will yield approximately 2 ounces of edible flesh. If the artichoke feels heavy for its size and squeaks when squeezed, you have found a fresh artichoke. Select globes that are deep green, with a tight leaf formation, and those that feel heavy for their size. A good test of freshness is to press the leaves against each other which should produce a squeaking sound. Browning of the tips can indicate age, but can also indicate frost damage. Fall and winter artichokes may be darker or bronze-tipped or have a whitish, blistered appearance due to exposure to light frost. This is called "winter-kissed." Look for tender green on the inside of petals. Many consider these frosted artichokes to be the most tender with intense flavor. Avoid artichokes which are wilting, drying or have mold.
There are several varieties of Artichokes:
Imperial Star: A long, green artichoke with pointy leaves and no thorns. They are fast growers but not as tasty as the other two. This is what you will most likely find in the supermarket.
Green Globe: A short, spherical artichoke, with little clefts on the leaf tips. This is the artichoke variety with the proportionally largest hearts.
Violetto: A thorny, purple artichoke from Italy. It's leaves and stem also sport thorns - making it difficult for large commercial farmers to harvest and transport. You may find the less tasty, thornless variety in your supermarket.
GROWING YOUR OWN ARTICHOKES
In cool summer regions, such as San Francisco Bay Area, a garden can yield tons of artichokes. For those of people with normal growing seasons, artichokes primarily make their appearances in your garden and supermarket in the Spring and Autumn. Artichokes will cross pollinate with abandon for years producing hybrids if you have more than one variety of artichoke in your garden.
To store fresh artichokes at home, sprinkle them with a little water and refrigerate in an airtight plastic bag. Do no wash before storing. They should last a week when stored properly.
Artichokes have been used in art, sculpture and, most importantly, cooking for millennia. Many people are intimidated by this beautiful vegetable because they do not know where to begin to clean, cook and eat it.
When fresh artichokes are in season, you could eat them everyday. This simple preparation is a favorite way to serve them. Artichokes are beautiful to look at and also make an impressive starter for your dinner party. Instead of butter for dipping, You can use a mayonnaise and mustard dip.
Wash artichokes under cold, running water. Pull off lower petals and cut off bottom stems (cut flush with the base). Cut off about 1/2 inch of the pointed top of the artichoke. Trim tips of leaves with scissors to remove thorns. Dip in lemon juice to preserve color. TIP: Always use a stainless-steel knife and a stainless-steel or glass pot. Iron or aluminum will turn artichokes an unappetizing blue or black. For the same reason, never let aluminum foil come in contact with artichokes.
- Wash under cold, running water. Pull off lower petals and cut off stem.
- Cut off about 1/2 inch of the pointed top of the artichoke.
- Trim tips of leaves with scissors to remove thorns.
- Dip in lemon juice to preserve color.
MAKING ARTICHOKE CUPS FOR STUFFING:
Some recipes call for the choke to be removed to make a "cup" for stuffing. It is easier to do this after the whole artichoke has been cooked. Prepare the vegetable as for serving whole. Boil, steam, or microwave, then let stand until cool enough to handle. Spread the outer leaves apart, pull out the petals covering the choke, and use a teaspoon to scrape out the choke. The artichoke can be stuffed and then either served as is or baked.
PREPARING BABY ARTICHOKES
Bigger is not better - fresher and tighter is! Although the smallest artichokes are called "baby" artichokes they are, in fact, not immature artichokes. An artichoke plant will produce one or two large artichokes at the top of each main stem, further down and secondary stems will develop smaller artichokes - these will never grow to the full size of the top "buds."
Baby artichokes are not a separate variety but merely smaller versions of larger artichokes. Their size comes from their location on the artichoke plant. They are picked from the lower parts of the artichoke plant where the plant fronds protect them from sun, in effect stunting their growth.
Baby artichokes are sold in plastic bags or loose. Their size can vary from walnut to jumbo egg size. Size is no indication of age. (Some babies are bigger than other babies!) Choose baby artichokes that are firm and heavy for their size. Most have no fuzzy choke.
Bend back lower, outer petals of artichokes until they snap off easily near base. Continue doing this until you reach a point where the leaves are half green (at the top) and half yellow (at the bottom).
Using a sharp stainless steel knife, cut off top third of artichokes or just below the green tips of the petals. Pare all remaining dark green areas from bases. Cut off stems.
Halve or quarter as desired. If center petals are purple or pink remove center petals and fuzzy centers. Dip or rub all surfaces with lemon juice.
Cook as directed in recipes. Small artichokes, which are being shipped fresh more frequently today, make a savory appetizer, salad or vegetable accompaniment when marinated, either whole or cut lengthwise in halves. They are also delicious in poultry, beef, pork or lamb stews.
How you clean an artichoke depends on what you plan to do with it and the size of the artichoke. For both sizes, you'll want to snap off the outer leaves until you get to the lighter, tender leaves. Cut off the top 1/3 of the leaves.
Medium and large artichokes have a hairy "choke" that needs to be removed - it is very unpleasant to chew and swallow. Cut these artichokes in half and scoop out the "choke" with a spoon or melon-ball scoop. Baby artichokes do not have a choke so you do not need to perform this step.
When making cuts to artichokes either rub the cut portion with a lemon, or throw the pieces in acidulated water (water with lemon juice or vinegar) immediately to keep the cuts from turning brown or black.
ARTICHOKE HEART SLICES
Bend back outer petals of artichokes until they snap off easily near base. Edible portion of petals should remain on artichoke base. Continue to snap off and discard thick petals until central core Of pale green petals is reached. Cut off stems and top 2 inches of artichokes; discard. Pare outer dark green layer from artichoke bottoms. Cut in half lengthwise. Cut out center petals and fuzzy centers. Dip or rub all surfaces with lemon juice. Cook as directed in recipes.
HOW TO COOK ARTICHOKES
Wash the artichokes. Cut off stems at base and remove small bottom leaves. Trim tips of leaves and cut off about 1 inch from top of artichoke. Stand artichoke in deep sauce pan, large enough to hold artichokes snugly. Cook in 2 to 3 inches of boiling salted water, about 1/4 teaspoon salt for each artichoke. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice to prevent darkening. Add a few drops of oil to make leaves glisten. Cover and gently cook 30 to 45 minutes or until the base of artichoke can be pierced easily with fork. (Add a little more boiling water if needed). Lift out the cooked artichokes and turn upside down to drain. Gently spread leaves apart and with metal spoon, remove the choke (thistle portion) from the center of artichoke.
Hint: When cooking artichokes, use an enameled or stainless steel saucepan. Aluminum and cast iron will make artichokes gray in color.
HOW TO EAT ARTICHOKES
Artichokes are finger food! Simply pull off the outer leaves, one at a time. Dip fleshy end of each leaf into a dip sauce. Draw the end through your front teeth, scraping off the edible part of each leaf. Continue dipping and eating until you reach the purple tipped cone of the light colored leaves. The heart of the artichoke is the gourmet's delight. Always remove the choke (thistle portion) preferably before serving, with a spoon or knife. Using a fork, dip each piece into a sauce, vinaigrette or a dip and enjoy.
ARTICHOKE RECIPE SUGGESTIONS
You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to using artichokes. They can be prepared in the standard ways or used in a variety of recipes. Do not let them intimidate you. Be creative and enjoy!
ROMAN STYLE ARTICHOKES (Carciofi alla Romana)
Instructions: In a small bowl, combine the parsley, mint, garlic, salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil. In the cavity of the artichoke from which the choke was removed, place 1 teaspoon of the herb mixture. Repeat this procedure with the remaining chokes. Arrange all chokes in a deep pan that keeps them close together, in other words, one that does not give them room to fall over. Add the wine, boiling water, remaining oil and a pinch of salt. Cover and simmer on the stove top 1 hour. Serve hot or at room temperature.
- 1 tablespoon chopped Fresh Parsley
- 3 tablespoons chopped Fresh Mint
- 2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
- Salt, to taste
- 1 tablespoon plus 3/4 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- 6 Artichokes, halved and trimmed of coarse (but not inner) leaves, choke removed, held in acidulated water
- 1/2 cup Dry White Wine
- 3/4 cup boiling Water
ARTICHOKES - JEWISH STYLE (Carciofi alla Giudea)
Instructions: Hold the artichokes in acidulated water after trimming, to keep from discoloring. In a heavy-bottomed, tall-sided pot, heat the oil to 300°F. Meanwhile, drain the artichokes and press them "face" down against a hard surface so that they open like flowers. Season the inside of each choke with salt and pepper. Fry each choke in the hot oil, working in batches, keeping them submerged with a slotted spoon or spider. After 10 minutes, increase the heat to 350°F to finish cooking. Remove from the oil, drain on paper towels and, if necessary, season with salt and pepper again.
- 6 round young Artichokes, trimmed, stalks peeled
- 1 liter Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper, to taste
STUFFED ARTICHOKES (Carciofi Ripieni)
Instructions: Soak the bread crumbs in 1/2 cup of water and set aside. Trim each artichoke, cut in half, scoop out the fuzzy (choke) and put in a water bath with the lemon juice. In a mixing bowl combine the pork, damp bread crumbs, 1 egg, 1 chopped clove garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper and mix well to combine. Form the mixture into oval-shaped meat balls. Remove the artichoke pieces from the lemon water and pat dry with a paper towel. Place 1 meatball between 2 pieces of artichoke, pressing to hold together. Roll each "sandwich" in flour, patting off the excess, and lay each on a sheet tray. In a separate bowl, beat the remaining 2 eggs and add a pinch of salt. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat 1 cup olive oil over high heat until just smoking. Dip the artichokes in the egg mixture, let the excess drip off, and cook in the hot oil until they are golden brown on all sides. Work in batches if necessary, to avoid lowering the temperature of the oil. Remove the artichokes from the oil with a spider or slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. In a skillet large enough to hold the artichokes in a single layer, sweat (do not brown) the chopped onion. Then, arrange the artichokes and add the tomatoes and their juices, the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, the remaining chopped clove of garlic, parsley and salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer over medium heat, lowering if necessary to avoid scorching, for 20 to 30 minutes, until the liquids are of a fairly thick consistency. Serve immediately.
- 1 cup of Bread Crumbs
- 6 medium Artichokes, cleaned and choke removed
- 1 Lemon, (Juice)
- 1 pound Lean Ground Pork
- 3 Eggs
- 2 cloves of Garlic<
- Salt & Pepper
- 1/2 cup Unbleached Flour
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 16 ounce can of Whole Tomatoes
- 1 Onion
- 1 bunch Italian Parsley
ARTICHOKE PASTA (Pasta Carciofata)
Tart yellow cherry tomatoes, baby artichokes and a little bit of fresh basil are the foundation of this dish. Together, with Parmesan cheese, the ingredients create a delicate play of tart, bitter, sweet and salty flavors that harmonize together giving it that "hit the spot" taste.
Instructions: Clean the baby artichokes by soaking them in cold water. Put you skillet on low heat with a little olive oil. Pat dry the baby artichokes, snap off the first layer or two of external leaves and cut off the top 1/3. Then, slice them in halves or thirds (depending on their size) in either wedges or cross-sections (these are beautiful but difficult to do). As you are cutting the artichokes toss them immediately the skillet. When you have finished cutting, shake the skillet a bit or turn the baby artichoke slices to an evenly golden coat - they may be ready at different times. Take each piece out of the pan as they are done and put aside. Leave the skillet on a low flame.
- 1/2 pound of Baby Artichokes (or about 8)
- 1 basket of Yellow Cherry Tomatoes
- 16 ounces box of Spaghetti
- Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
- Olive Oil
- Fresh Basil, to garnish
Now, clean and cut the yellow cherry tomatoes in half and toss them all in the skillet - add olive oil if necessary. You should hear a sizzle. You can now turn on your pasta water. Stir the cherry tomatoes occasionally. When the cherry tomatoes are just beginning to get little brown edges, add the cooked artichokes you have put aside to the skillet. Grind pepper and sprinkle a bit of salt to taste. Put your dry spaghetti in the water, stir occasionally. Cut the basil into strips by rolling several leaves together and then slicing - put aside. When the pasta is done, usually about 7 minutes, drain in a colander and then bring the spaghetti to the skillet. Stir for about a minute and then turn off the flame. Serve in individual bowls with a sprinkle of basil on top.
Let your guests grate Parmesan cheese to taste. Note: If your cherry tomatoes are sweet and not tart, squeeze a little lemon juice in the skillet right after you have added the pasta.
EATING WHOLE ARTICHOKES
Instructions: In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise and mustard. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Wash artichokes under cold, running water. Pull off lower petals and cut off bottom stems (cut flush with the base). Cut off about 1/2 inch of the pointed top of the artichoke. Trim tips of leaves with scissors to remove thorns. Dip in lemon juice to preserve color. TIP: Always use a stainless-steel knife and a stainless-steel or glass pot. Iron or aluminum will turn artichokes an unappetizing blue or black. For the same reason, never let aluminum foil come in contact with artichokes. In a large pot (big enough to hold the artichokes in a single layer), add approximately 2 cups of water and the remaining lemon juice; bring to a boil. Place the prepared artichokes in the boiling water, cover with lid, reduce heat to simmer, and let cook for approximately 20 to 40 minutes (depending on size). The artichokes are done when the leaves pull away easily. Remove artichokes from the boiling water with tongs and drain them upside down in a colander (after cooking, artichokes can be stored in an airtight container for a maximum of 3 days). Bring to room temperature before serving. Serve warm or cool with mayonnaise/mustard dip. Makes 2 servings.
- 2 tablespoons Light Mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon Prepared Mustard
- 2 large Artichokes
- 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
WHOLE ARTICHOKE - NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION
Item Amount Fat Grams Calories WW Points Artichoke 2 large 0 50 1.5 Lemon Juice 1 tablespoon 0 10 0.7 Mayonnaise, Light 2 tablespoons 4 50 1.8 >Mustard, Prepared 1 teaspoons 0 5 0.5 Recipe Totals --- 4 115 4.5
Recipe makes 2 servings.
Per Serving - 2 fat grams, 57 calories, 2 WW points
WHOLE ARTICHOKES (Carciofi Interi}
Whole, cooked artichokes can either be eaten by themselves or served with a sauce for dipping. When serving, be sure to have an empty bowl to put the remainder of the eaten leaves.
Instructions: In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise and mustard. Sprinkle a little paprika on top. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Wash artichokes under cold, running water. Pull off lower petals and cut off the stem (cut flush with the base so it can stand upright). If the leaves have thorns on the ends, cut off about 1/2 inch of the top of the artichoke. Trim tips of the remaining leaves with scissors. Dip in lemon juice to preserve color. In a large pot add approximately 2 cups of water and the remaining lemon juice; bring to a boil. Place the prepared artichokes in the boiling water, cover with lid, reduce heat to simmer, and let cook for approximately 20 to 40 minutes (depending on size). The artichokes are done when the leaves pull away easily. Remove artichokes from the boiling water with tongs and drain them upside down in a colander. Bring to room temperature before serving. Serve warm or cool with the dip. Makes 4 servings.
- 4 tablespoons Light Mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
- 4 large Artichokes
- 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
- Dash of Paprika
It is both proper and polite to pluck the leaves with your fingers, leaving fork and knife aside. Pull off a leaf, holding it by the pointed end. Put the other end in your mouth and pull it between your teeth, scraping the length of the leaf (the edible portion of the leaves becomes greater as you get closer to the center of the artichoke). If you are provided with a dip, put a small part of the edible portion of the leaf in the dip and scrape with your teeth. Do not overdo it on the dip or you will not taste the artichoke. When the leaves are pulled, you will be left with the base, the heart, crowned with a fuzzy patch (the choke). You have now reached the artichoke heart. Carefully scoop away the choke with your knife or spoon. With knife and fork, cut bites from the heart.
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USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 12 (March 1998)
Percent Daily Values (%DV) are for adults or children aged 4 or older, and are based on a 2,000 calorie reference diet.
Your daily values may be higher or lower based on your individual needs.
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MOONDRAGON'S REALM - WEBSITE DIRECTORY
A website map to help you find what you are looking for on MoonDragon.org's Website. Available pages have been listed under appropriate directory headings.