Artichoke –

Scientific Name and Common Name

botanical print of artichoke plant
Cynara cardunculus
Cynara scolymus L
Artichoke (Globe artichoke)

About

The Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) is a perennial thistle originating in Southern Europe around the Mediterranean. They were brought to the United States in the 19th century, to Louisiana by French immigrants and to California by Spanish immigrants. The name has originated from the Arabic al-kharshof, through a Northern Italian dialect word, articiocco. It grows to 1.5–2 m tall, with arching, deeply lobed, silvery glaucous-green leaves 50–82 cm long. The flowers develop in a large head from an edible bud about 8–15 cm diameter with numerous triangular scales; the individual florets are purple. The edible portion of the buds consists primarily of the fleshy lower portions of the involucral bracts and the base, known as the “heart”; the mass of immature florets in the center of the bud is called the “choke.” These are inedible in older, larger flowers.

Cultural Information

Artichokes can be produced from seeds or from vegetative means such as division, root cuttings or micropropagation. They require good soil, regular watering and feeding plus frost protection in winter. Rooted suckers can be planted each year so that mature specimens can be disposed of after a few years, as each individual plant only lives a few years. The peak season for artichoke harvesting is the spring, but they continue to be harvested throughout the summer, with another peak period in mid autumn. When harvesting, they are cut from the plant so as to leave an inch or two of stem. Artichokes possess good keeping qualities, frequently remaining quite fresh for two weeks or longer under average retail conditions. Generally severe frosts wipe out our plantings in the winter with perhaps only an occasional root base rebudding.

Nutritional and Medicinal

Information, Recipes and Cooking tips

Cynarin, an active chemical constituent in Cynara, causes an increased bile flow. The majority of the cynarin found in artichoke is located in the pulp of the leaves, though dried leaves and stems of artichoke also contain cynarin.

This diuretic vegetable is of nutritional value because of its exhibiting aid to digestion, strengthening of the liver function, gall bladder function, and raising of HDL/LDL ratio. This reduces cholesterol levels, which diminishes the risk for arteriosclerosis and coronary heart disease. Aqueous extracts from artichoke leaves have also shown to reduce cholesterol by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase and having a hypolipidemic influence, lowering blood cholesterol. Artichoke contains the bioactive agents apigenin and luteolin.

Nutritional Information
Artichoke, raw, Nutritional value per 1 whole medium, 128g
Nutrient Amount % US RDA
Energy 251.208 kJ (60 kcal) N/A
Carbohydrates 13.45 g N/A
Sugars 1.27g N/A
Dietary fiber 6.9 g 15-20%
Fat 0 g N/A
Protein 4.19g 1%
Thiamine (Vit. B1) 0.092 mg (4%)
Riboflavin (Vit. B2) 0.084 mg (6%)
Niacin (Vit. B3) 1.339mg (1%)
Vitamin B6 .148mg (6%)
Folate (Vit. B9) 87 mcg DFE (22%)
Vitamin C 15mg (12%)
Calcium 56mg (2%)
Iron 1.64 mg (5%)
Magnesium 77mg (11%)
Phosphorus 115mg (10%)
Potassium 474mg (6%)
Zinc 0.63mg (4%)

Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient database

-In the US, large globe artichokes are most frequently prepared for cooking by removing all but the butt of the stem, and (optionally) cutting away about a quarter of each scale with scissors. This removes the thorns on some varieties that can interfere with handling the leaves when eating. Then, the artichoke is boiled or steamed until tender. If boiling, salt can be added to the water, if desired. It may be preferable not to cover the pot while the artichokes are boiled, so that the acids will boil out into the air.

~Covered, and partially cut, artichokes can turn brown due to the acids and chlorophyll oxidation. If not cooked immediately, placing them in water lightly acidulated with vinegar or lemon juice prevents the discoloration. Leaves are often removed one at a time and the fleshy base part eaten, sometimes dipped in hollandaise, vinegar, butter, mayonnaise, aioli, lemon juice or other sauces, the fibrous upper part of each leaf being discarded; the heart is then eaten when the inedible choke has been discarded after being carefully peeled away from the base. The thin leaves covering the choke are mostly edible.

~In Italy, artichoke hearts in oil are the usual vegetable for spring in the ‘Four Seasons’ pizza (with olives for summer, mushrooms for autumn and prosciutto for winter).

basket of artichokes

Make Your Own Dips for Artichokes
Submitted by Kristy Alpert

When I make artichokes, the art is in the dip. I simply steam the artichokes in my steamer or bake them in a bed of water in the oven at 350. For a fun night with the kids or just to get creative, use these ingredients (or whatever you have in your refrigerator and spice cabinet) to make your own dips for your artichoke leaves.

Base

    • Mayonnaise
    • Sour Cream
    • Plain Greek yogurt
    • Melted butter

Mix-ins

  • Pesto
  • Garlic
  • Garlic salt
  • Chives
  • Chili powder
  • Parsley
  • Lemon juice
  • Soy sauce
  • Dill

A few of my favorites have included a Greek-style dip comprised of plain yogurt, dill, salt and garlic with a touch of lemon juice; an Italian-style dip of simply mayonnaise and garlic and basil; and my husband’s favorite, lemon butter dip (slightly less than melted butter with lemon juice).

Artichokes are a wonderful plant with many uses for each of it’s parts. If you forget to harvest yours and let all the flowers seed out, the downy, fluff and thistle make nice stuffing for dolls and small pillows. 🙂