I’ve eaten artichoke hearts for years, primarily as an ingredient in a big mixed salad. I have never actually purchased this peculiar looking vegetable before today, or prepared it at home. There’s a first for everything!
What are Artichokes?
The artichoke is a variety of the thistle plant, cultivated as food. The edible portion of the plant consists of the flower bud before the flowers come into bloom. The budding artichoke flower-head is a cluster of small blooms with many bracts on an edible base. Once the buds bloom, the structure changes to a coarse, barely edible form.
This vegetable grows 4.5 feet to 6.5 feet tall, with arching, deeply lobed, silvery green leaves. The bud is 3 to 6 inches in diameter with numerous triangular scales. The edible portions of the buds consist primarily of the fleshy lower portions of the bracts and the base, known as the “heart”. The mass of immature florets in the center of the bud is called the “choke” or beard. These are inedible in older, larger plants.
Health Benefits of Artichokes
In Life Changing Foods, author Anthony William ranks artichokes in the top ten among superfoods. They are filled with phytochemicals such as lutein and isothiocyanates, vitamins A, E and K, amino acids and enzymes. They enhance B12 and bring balance to the gut.
Artichokes also contain minerals such as silica, which is crucial for the body to survive, and magnesium which when combined with other minerals found in this vegetable, helps to calm all the body’s systems. The mineral denseness in the artichoke nourishes the dense organs of the body, including the liver, spleen, pancreas, brain, adrenals and thyroid.
This is an ideal food for those with diabetes, hypoglycemia and blood sugar imbalances, as well as people suffering with kidney stones, gallstones, calcifications and scar tissue within the body. Artichokes also protect from the radiation of X-rays, cancer treatments and dental work.
Bring more artichokes into the diet for these additional symptoms and conditions: shingles, insomnia, liver disease, Lyme disease, pancreatic cancer, ulcers, systemic lupus, blood cell cancers, infertility, rib pain, food allergies, bone loss, inflamed colon, nerve pain and enlarged spleen.
How to Prepare Artichokes
The best, most nutritious way to enjoy artichokes is to steam them. Follow these easy steps:
• Cut off the stem of the artichoke so that it rests flat. Trim off the top 1/4 of the artichoke. Using scissors, cut the tips from each remaining leaf.
• Fill a large pot with 3 inches of water. Place 1 – 4 artichokes in a steamer basket and place inside the pot. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over artichokes.
• Bring water to a boil and steam covered for 30 – 45 minutes, until leaves are tender and easily pull loose from the bud. Eat by nibbling the fleshy part at the base of each leaf.
I used my pressure pot to steam one artichoke, after preparing it. It took 14 minutes to cook through. Using vegan, egg free mayo, I created a lemon sauce with the other half of the lemon.
My first experience steaming and eating a fresh artichoke was a success! The leaf bases were tender and tasty…and I ate the whole thing. Which is to say, I nibbled away the bases of the leaves and enjoyed the heart. There was a pile of leftover leaf parts when I finished, making artichokes a great beginning to a plant based meal.
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