The 3FW (FED Fun Food of the Week): Artichokes


Although often considered a vegetable, artichokes (not to be confused with Jerusalem artichokes which are a member of the sunflower family) are actually a perennial thistle.  The popular globe artichoke was originally cultivated near Naples Italy around the 9th century and the countries of the Mediterranean basin (Italy, France, and Spain) still serve as the modern centers of artichoke production.  

Artichokes are delicious, nutritious (long sought after for their medicinal properties), keep well (even fresh they can last up to two weeks), and, most importantly, they are fun to eat!

In the United States, California is the primary producer of artichokes and peak harvest is Spring but they can continue to produce well into summer and fall, so you should have no problem finding fresh artichokes at your local produce purveyor.  Once you've purchased your prickly prize, you can check out these interesting facts about cooking, eating, and even drinking artichokes from Wikipedia.com...

Cooking

In the US, large globe artichokes are most frequently prepared for cooking by removing all but 5–10 millimetres (0.2–0.4 in) or so 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 the acids will boil out into the air.

Globe Artichoke buds ready for cooking
Covered artichokes, particularly those that have been cut, can turn brown due to the enzymatic browning 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 is eaten, sometimes dipped in hollandaisevinegarbuttermayonnaiseaioli, lemon juice or other sauces, with 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).[10] In Spain, the more tender, younger and smaller artichokes are used. They can be sprinkled with olive oil and left in hot ashes in a barbecue, sauteed in olive oil with garlic, with rice as a paella or sauteed and combined with eggs in a tortilla (frittata). More often cited are the Greek artichokes (à la polita), of which probably the finest examples are to be found on the island of Tinos and in Iria and Kantia, two small villages in Argolida in the Peloponnese of southern Greece.
Once the stem's fibrous exterior has been removed, its core is edible and tastes like the artichoke heart.

[edit]Tea


tea bag containing artichoke tea
Artichokes can also be made into a herbal tea; artichoke tea is produced as a commercial product in the Da Lat region of Vietnam.

[edit]Liqueur

Artichoke is the primary flavor of the Italian liqueur Cynar.



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About Tony Fed

Tony is the host of the Paleo Magazine Radio podcast, author of "Paleo Grilling: A Modern Caveman's Guide to Cooking with Fire", and Cofounder of Powerful PT, an innovative information resource for Fitness Professionals. He has appeared on numerous local and national television and radio broadcasts and regularly hosts healthy cooking workshops and informational lectures. He is also a full-time Personal Trainer and Wellness Consultant who lives in Jacksonville Florida with his wife Jamie.
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