The artichoke is one of the most popular winter season vegetables. It is commonly known as “Ankinara” in Greek, and its use was very well-known to ancient Romans and Greeks, who mainly used it for health and medicinal purposes. The artichoke belongs to the Asteraceae or thistle family and its scientific name is Cynara cardunculus.
A normal artichoke plant grows to a height of 2m tall and forms green leaves that are about 0.5m long. When left alone to grow, the artichoke produces beautiful purple or light pink flowers which later develop into a large head. The bud, which develops into a flower, is composed of triangular scales in a swirl pattern around a central "choke".
An artichoke globe measures about 10cm in diameter and 150g in weight. The immature florets found in the center of each bud form the so-called “choke”. The edible part of every bud is made primarily of the fleshy lower parts of the triangular scales (chokes) and the base called the “heart”.
Grown varieties of artichokes are grouped based on their spine, color, and size. They include:
- Spine variety
- Green color and medium size
- Green color and large size
- Purple color and medium size
- Purple color and large size
Nutritional facts about artichokes
- Artichokes have low sodium
- Artichokes are a low-calorie food
- Artichokes are a fat free food
- Artichokes are a perfect source of vitamin C
- Artichokes are cholesterol free
- Artichokes are rich in folates and vitamin B12
- Artichokes are rich in magnesium
- Artichokes are a good source of dietary fiber
Artichoke nutritional value
Below is a list of some major nutrients in artichoke and their quantities in every 100g of artichoke:
- Energy - 47 calories
- Carbs - 10.51g
- Protein - 3.27g
- Dietary fiber - 5.4g
- Total fat - 0.15g
- Cholesterol - 0g
Other nutrients include:
- Vitamin C - 11.7mg
- Vitamin A - 13IU
- Vitamin K - 14.8 µg
- Vitamin E - 0.19mg
- Folates - 68 µg
- Niacin - 1.046g
- Thiamin - 0.072mg
- Pantothenic acid - 0.338mg
- Pyridoxine - 0.116mg
- Iron - 1.28mg
- Zinc - 0.49mg
- Calcium - 44mg
- Manganese - 0.256mg
- Magnesium - 60mg
- Copper - 0.231mg
- Phosphorus - 90mg
- Selenium - 0.2 µg
- Alpha-carotene - 8 µg
- Lutein-zeaxanthin - 464 µg
- Sodium - 94mg
- Potassium - 370mg
Artichoke health benefits
- Artichokes are rich in some bitter components such as cynarine and sesquiterpene-lactones, which help inhibit cholesterol synthesis. These substances are also involved in cholesterol excretion through bile, helping in reduction of blood cholesterol levels.
- Globe artichokes are very low in fat and calories. 100g of globe artichoke contains only 47 calories, making it the best source of dietary fiber and antioxidants. In every 100g of these artichokes, you are going to get 5.4g of RDA fiber. Fiber is very important in controlling constipation and in decreasing bad cholesterol (LDL). They reduce levels of bad cholesterol by binding to it directly in the intestines.
- Fresh artichokes are also a good source of vitamin B12 (folic acid). Every 100g of fresh artichoke contains 68 µg folic acid, which is about 17% of the daily recommended amount. Folic acid is very important in synthesis of DNA as it act as a co-factor to the enzymes that catalyze DNA synthesis.
- Artichokes also contain small amounts of vitamin C. Every 100g of globe artichokes contains about 20% of the daily recommended vitamin C. Vitamin C helps the body resist infections and get rid of free radicals such as reactive oxygen species (ROS).
- They contain small amounts of antioxidant flavonoid substances such as lutein, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin, which help the body get rid of free radicals.
- Artichokes are also rich in vitamin K. Each 100g of artichoke contains about 12% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K. Vitamin K is very important in the body as it promotes bone health and bone formation. Adequate vitamin K in the blood can help prevent neural damage which may be helpful in such conditions as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
- Artichokes are also a good source of antioxidant substances such as caffeic acid, silymarin, and ferulic acid, which are very important in helping the body get rid of free radicals. In every 100g of fresh artichokes, you are likely to get 6552 µmol of such antioxidants.
- Artichokes are also a rich source of electrolytes and minerals such as iron, potassium, copper, calcium, phosphorus, and manganese. Manganese acts as a co-factor for antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase. Iron is very important in synthesis of red blood cells and in synthesis of bone marrow. Potassium helps control body fluids, heart rate, and blood pressure due to high sodium levels. Copper is important as it aids synthesis of red blood cells. Calciumis needed for bone and teeth formation and maintenance.
How to cook an artichoke
Before you cook your artichokes, you first need to prepare them to ensure they cook well. Here are the steps you should follow to prepare your artichokes for cooking:
- Cut off the petal tips - Take kitchen scissors and cut all the thorny parts off the petals. This step is for aesthetic purposes since artichoke thorns soften when cooked and pose no threat to the person eating them. Cutting the thorns will help open the petals easily without being poked.
- Slice the top of your artichoke - You need to slice about ¾ inch of the artichoke tip with a serrated bread knife
- Remove all small petals at the base - In this step, you need to pull off all the inedible petals at the base of your artichoke.
- Remove excess stem - Cutting off the excess stem will make sure that you remain with an inch of edible artichoke. The stems are very bitter compared to the rest of the artichoke though some people like eating them. Alternatively, you can decide to leave the stem and just peel out the outside layer of the stem by use of a vegetable peeler.
- Rinse your artichokes - Rinse your artichokes with cold running water and make sure that water does not get inside of the chokes by opening the petals.
Once you have prepared your artichoke with the above procedure, they are ready for cooking. You can cook them by either boiling, steaming, or baking. These methods of cooking are as discussed below.
After you have prepared your artichokes, you can steam them by following the steps below:
- Boil water in a large pot. Make sure the pot is fully filled.
- Put a steamer basket over the pot and make sure it is suspended over the boiling water.
- Cover the basket and reduce to simmer. Bake for about 20-25 minutes.
- Artichokes are ready when they are fully tender. When artichokes are tender, a knife will be able to penetrate to the base of the artichoke with no resistance.
- Preheat the oven to about 425 F before you begin baking.
- Wrap the prepared and seasoned artichokes in two layers of aluminum foil. The need for wrapping is to protect the artichoke’s juice. If you spring a leak, you cannot wrap the artichokes.
- Put the artichokes in a baking dish and bake for about an hour.
After an hour, check if the artichokes are tender by testing with a knife. A knife should go through the base without any resistance.
- Fill a large pot with plain water to cover your artichokes.
- Add 2 tablespoons of salt and 1 sachet containing 1 tablespoon of peppercorns in water.
- Add lemon rind.
- Add your artichokes and then weigh them down by use of a bowl, heatproof lid, or a dish.
- Cover the pot and allow to boil gently for about 20 minutes. Your artichokes are ready when a knife can cut to the base with no resistance.
- Drain water from the artichokes by placing the pot upside-down for 3 minutes before serving.
Healthy artichoke recipes
The following are some tasty and healthy ways you can prepare artichokes.
1. Leek and artichoke soup
This soup is nutritious, delicious, and low in calories!
- Thinly sliced garlic clove
- Washed and sliced leeks
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 5 cups of water
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 thinly sliced potato
- 2 artichokes
- 2 chopped mint leaves
- 1lb washed peas
- 6 sliced lettuce leaves
- Salt or pepper for taste
- Parmesan cheese
- Prepare your artichokes by removing the tough outer leaves. Also, cut off 2/3 of the top remaining inner leaves.
- Cut the artichokes in quarters and remove the chokes. Dice the trimmed hearts to form small pieces
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat and then add the leeks, garlic, potato, artichokes, lettuce, mint leaves, and parsley. Add a little salt to season and ½ cup of water.
- Stir the mixture for about 5 minutes to make sure all the vegetables have softened
- Add the remaining water and peas and let the mixture boil. Reduce the heat and then simmer for 20 minutes
- Add salt to taste. Garnish with parmesan cheese
2. Lemon-garlic grilled artichokes
- 4 artichokes
- 2 lemons
- Salt for taste
- 1 tablespoon parsley
- 3 chopped cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon of rosemary
- 1 tablespoon thyme
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon vinegar (red wine)
- 2 lemons
- Fill a pot with water. Add salt.
- Place your prepared artichokes in the pot and cover.
- Let the artichokes boil and then reduce heat to simmer for about 10-12 minutes or until the stem becomes tender.
- Drain the artichokes and let them cool.
- Once they have cooled, slice them in halves and scrape out the chokes.
- Combine olive oil with vinegar, parsley, and garlic in a bowl and then add the sliced chokes.
- Grill the mixture over medium heat for about five minutes. Make sure all the artichokes are charred.
- Add salt and the remaining lemon juice.
5. Easy steamed artichokes
- 1 halved lemon
- 4 medium-sized artichokes
- Melted butter
- Coarse salt
- First, prepare your artichokes by snapping off the tough outer leaves by use of a serrated bread knife.
- Rub the cut surfaces of your artichokes with lemon to help prevent discoloration.
- Put a steamer basket over a large pot. Add enough water to the pot and make sure it reaches just below the basket.
- Squeeze lemon juice into the water and then add 1 tablespoon salt. Let the mixture boil.
- Place your artichokes in the steamer basket with the stem side up. Cover the pot and steam them for about 30 minutes until the artichoke hearts become tender when poked with a knife. Make sure that you can also pull out the inner leaves easily. Add more water to the pot if needed.
- Serve your artichokes when warm with melted butter.
6. Grilled artichokes
- 2-4 medium sized globe artichokes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 lemon (cut into wedges)
- 2 cut clove garlic
- 1/3 cup of olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped herbs (oregano, rosemary, or thyme)
- Chop the herbs, excluding the bay leaf, and place them in a small bowl. Cover them with olive oil. Heat them in a microwave or on a stove for about 30 minutes and let them stay in warm olive oil as you prepare the artichokes.
- Fill a large pot with water. Add bay leaf and clove garlic to the water and then place a steamer basket over the large pot.
- Place the large pot on a source of heat and heat the water to boiling. Once the water has boiled, reduce the amount of heat and place the artichokes in a steamer basket.
- Prepare your grill to meet high amounts of heat directly. After that, use a pastry brush to brush the artichokes with olive oil-herb mixture. Sprinkle the latter with salt for taste.
- Place your artichokes on the grill grates with the cut side placed down and cover.
- Grill them for about 5-10 minutes until you get a perfect grill on the cut side of your artichokes.
Before serving, you can sprinkle your artichokes with more of the remaining lemon juice. You can serve the dish alone or with remoulade, mayonnaise, or aioli.