How many of you have passed by this prickly looking bud in the fresh food section of your supermarket – having no idea what it is, – let alone what on earth you would do with it in your kitchen? Well, what if I told you that globe artichokes are a nutritional power-house and super quick and easy to prepare as a delicious snack or appetiser? Globe artichokes are actually a member of the thistle family and just one serving contains more anti-oxidants than dark chocolate, blueberries or red wine!
The antioxidants contained in fresh artichokes provide a range of health benefits, ranging from cancer prevention, to immune support and protection against heart disease. But the nutritional benefits don’t stop there! Artichokes also provide a whopping 10.3 g of dietary fiber per 120 gram serve, and contain a natural prebiotic known as inulin. Prebiotics help to increase the proliferation of ‘good bacteria’ within your gut – making them fantastic for keeping you regular and improving your overall digestive health.
Artichokes are also renowned for their liver protectant qualities, thanks to containing two particularly powerful phytonutrients – cynarin and silymarin. These compounds also help to stimulate the production of bile – a substance produced by the liver to aid in the digestion of fats, and may also be effective in decreasing levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Artichokes are a rich source of vitamin K, which works to reduce vascular calcification, and aids in the formation and health of bones – in conjunction with vitamin D. Vitamin K also offers protection against neurological degeneration, thereby helping to prevent diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
How to choose an artichoke
To pick the freshest artichokes, look for ones with tightly packed, crisp green or purple leaves that feel heavy for their size. If the artichokes are smaller, the leaves will be more tender and the hearts will be larger. Globe artichokes are best eaten on the day they’re purchased, but will keep in a plastic bag in the fridge for a couple of days.
How to prepare and serve artichokes
- To serve whole, trim the pointed top of the artichoke, using a serrated bread knife – about 3/4 inch to an inch, then using scissors, snip off the thorny tips of the leaves. Remember, the younger the artichoke, the less you’ll need to trim off. Cut off the very end of the stem, and peel the tough outside layer of the stem with a vegetable peeler. Pull off any smaller petals towards the base
- Rinse the artichokes in cold running water and open up the petals a little so that the water gets inside more easily.
- In a large pot, add a couple inches of water and a pinch or two of Himalayan or Celtic sea salt. Add the artichokes along with a clove of garlic, a slice of lemon, and a bay leaf (this adds delicious flavour to the artichokes). Bring the water to boil, before reducing to a simmer and cook for 35-45 minutes (they’re ready when the outer leaf pulls easily). Drain upside down.
- To eat, simply pull the leaves off and dip the broken end into melted butter with crushed garlic, or in my simple dressing recipe. Draw the leaf through your teeth to remove the tender flesh, before discarding the rest. When you reach the middle, remove the central leaves, scrape away the hairy choke and eat the delicious artichoke ‘heart’ – this is my favourite part!
Alternatively, artichokes can be barbecued or grilled: cut in half lengthways, remove the choke, brush with olive oil and grill for 30 minutes, until tender.