Featured Vegetable: Artichokes
Where it Started: Originally cultivated in the Mediterranean region, nearly all of the artichokes in the U.S. today are grown in California. The artichokes we consume are actually the immature, unopened flower buds of the artichoke plant. A fully mature artichoke will produce an amazing bluish-purplish flower (which is not edible). Did you know that artichokes are actually related to sunflowers?1
Nutritional Burst: You may have heard of the benefits of following a Mediterranean-style diet – namely an eating plan that focuses on plant-based foods (vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and whole grains) in addition to healthy fats– just to name a few of the highlights. You are likely to find the sweet, nutty taste of artichokes as part of many Mediterranean dishes.
One medium artichoke contains about 65 calories, is loaded with fiber (which helps with digestion) and is an excellent source of folate. It also provides a good source of vitamin C and magnesium. Research studies have found artichokes are rich in antioxidants, even compared to other veggies.2,3 Antioxidants may have protective effects against certain types of diseases.
Selection & Storage: Choose fresh artichokes that feel heavy for their size with tightly wrapped leaves. Pull back one of the leaves and avoid selecting ones that have dark blemishes inside – this indicates an older vegetable that will be less tender. Artichokes can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week. Keep in mind that artichokes are also available frozen or canned – these of course keep a lot longer and make them accessible for recipes year round!
Preparation: If fresh artichokes are new to you, their appearance can be intimidating. Fear not! Check out these quick and easy video tutorials on Preparing Artichokes and How to Eat an Artichoke available on the California Artichoke Advisory Board website.
Culinary Recommendations & Recipes: Artichokes can be cooked in numerous ways- baked, braised, marinated, roasted or steamed. The edible portion includes the soft, pulpy part of the leaves and the bottom of the artichoke, known as the heart. Serve them as an appetizer with low-fat, low-calorie dips or sauces.
Artichokes can be served as a starter - as part of a salad or antipasto dish. Looking for meal ideas? How about adding them to a slow cooker recipe or hollow out artichokes and experiment by filling them with your favorite healthful mixture of breadcrumbs, low-fat cheeses, diced veggies, herbs and spices.
Check out these recipes from Campbell’s KitchenSM
1 http://artichokes.org/recipes-and-such. California Artichoke Advisory Board. Accessed 1/13/2013.
2 Wu X, Beecher GR, Holden JM, et. Al. Lipophilic and Hydrophilic Antioxidant Capacities of Common Foods in the United States. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2004: 52; 4026-37.
3 http://www.nutritionj.com/content/9/1/3. The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide. Accessed 1/24/2013.