- german name: Artishocken
- swiss name: Artishocken
- french name: Artichauts
- italian name: Carciofi
General Information: My first experience with the artichoke was in California where there is really only one variety. While the Californian variety is quite tasty, I was pleased to learn that Europe is host to several other varieties, each displaying their own unique flavor. The artichoke is available much of the year but peaks in spring, just in time to wash away the “Winter Doldrums” with a vegetable that is inspiring to all cooks.
Native to the Mediterranean area of Europe, the artichoke is the bud of the large Cynara cardunculus plant – a member of the thistle family. Although the exact origins of the artichoke are unknown, they have been cultivated in modern day Italy for over 2000 years and have played an important role in the diets of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Fun Fact: Artichokes possess a unique organic acid called Cynarin. This acid can affect the sweetness receptors in taste buds and once washed away in the mouth with a bit of food or a drink, the sweet receptors immediately wake up and become hyperactive for a few seconds. This brief hyperactivity of the sweet receptors causes anything you put into your mouth to taste sweet.
At the Market: Look for Italian varieties (Spinosa, Tuscan, Carciofi and Roma), French Bretagne and Swiss artichokes available from August.
Season: Artichokes produce two crops per year, first in the fall (November-May) and then again in the late summer (September). The spring or first harvest is always the best, with February-April being the optimal time for purchase.
- Look for tight leaf formation
- Examine the color – heavy browning indicates over-ripeness
- Examine the stem end – dark and wilted stems indicate age
- Press bottom of artichoke – softness indicates decay
- Frost damage can occur during early spring – this will cause discoloration of the leaves, but not affect flavor
Storage Tips: It is best to cook Artichokes the same day they were purchased however they can be refrigerated up to 3-4 days uncovered.
Nutritional Info: Artichokes are a very good source of Dietary Fiber, very low in saturated fat and cholesterol. They are also a good source of Niacin, Vitamin B6, Iron and Phosphorus, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate, Magnesium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.
- Try artichokes raw – shave artichoke hearts very thin and add to salad or toss with citrus fruits
- Larger artichokes are best steamed, boiled, stuffed or baked
- Smaller artichokes are best sliced and then sautéed or roasted
- Always rub with lemon juice after cutting artichokes to prevent discoloration
- Never cook in aluminum pans or on aluminum foil as both can cause discoloration
Matching Flavors: Lemon, Thyme, Rosemary, Capers, Olives, Anchovies and Chili Peppers
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