Natural food of the month - Globe Artichokes June 2010
NATURAL FOOD OF THE MONTH -
In the last few weeks shops have been full of globe artichokes. These funny plants are growing steadily in popularity because of their excellent nutritional qualities, but they are also very tasty and fun to eat.
The globe artichoke is not actually a vegetable – it is actually a flower. Well, a flower bud to be precise, from a big thistle type plant that originated from Sicily. They mustn’t be confused with the Jerusalem artichoke which is totally different.
Globe artichokes are rich in potassium, vitamin C, folate and fibre. However, most interestingly, artichokes are also a very good source of antioxidants, higher than the level found in those two popular antioxidant foods, red wine and pomegranate juice. Artichokes also contain inulin, a prebiotic, and also cynarin which some people believe helps to lower cholesterol and protect liver cells.
On top of all this, artichokes can taste great.
You need to choose artichokes with tightly packed darker coloured crisp green or purple leaves. Fresh artichokes feel heavy for their size and the leaves can “squeak” if gently squeezed. If they look brownish or dry, or if the leaves are "open," they may be past their prime.
Like all vegetables (and possibly edible flowers!) artichokes are best cooked fresh. They can be simply boiled, steamed or even microwaved, and then you simply peel off the outer petals, one at a time, and drag each leaf between your teeth to remove the soft, pulpy portion at the tip. Then you discard the remaining petal. Some people like to provide a dipping sauce such as melted butter or mayonnaise with artichokes, and others go to the trouble of carefully scraping off the edible portions before eating to include in salads.
Some people think artichokes are a bit too fiddly or difficult to eat to make them worthwhile; but when you look at their nutritional contents and accept that you can wash your fingers after eating, then including artichokes in your diet makes lots of good sense.
If it all seems too much and you decide to buy tinned or bottled artichokes, check the sodium content as they are often preserved in a salted marinade.
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