Did you know that in the 16th century only men were allowed to eat artichokes because they were considered an aphrodisiac? They are one of the oldest foods known to humans. Are also a possible hangover cure. And contain amazing anti-aging and over-all health benefits. All in one little green globe of leaves!
And I’ll bet there are a lot of people who have never tasted this delicacy! Who wants to eat leaves?
Most people are more familiar with eating the heart of the artichoke. These are used a lot in dips, spreads, on pasta, in salads. You can find them in jars or cans in most grocery stores. (Try to buy them packed in water rather than oil – way less fattening!)
But the leaves are where much of this vegetable’s powerful nutrients are stored. So what actually are these green globes of leaves? Artichokes are a thistle group from the sunflower family. They originated, and still grow, predominately in the Mediterranean area.
But now California provides nearly 100% of the United States crops. Although they are available year round, their peak season is spring and fall.
Some of the nutritional benefits an artichoke provides are:
- Vitamins C, A, E, D, K, B-6 and B-12
- High in fiber
- Low in saturated fat and cholesterol
- High amounts of anti-oxidants
- Minerals: calcium iron, zinc, potassium, manganese and zinc
With all this great nutrition in a single artichoke, it’s no wonder an artichoke has such amazing anti-aging benefits! Although eating the full artichoke takes some work (see below for instructions on cooking and eating them), the benefits are well worth the effort.
Eating an artichoke may help to reduce unhealthy cholesterol levels, improving the flow of blood through your body and calm inflammation in your gut.
The high fiber content in an artichoke, like any fiber, helps to create the feeling of being full after eating. It helps to facilitate the liver function and aids the body in detoxing itself of waste.
Anemia is caused primarily due to an iron deficiency. This is most common for women, especially premenopausal, children and plant-based eaters. The iron levels in an artichoke may help relieve the fatigue, hard to focus and concentrate, weakened immune system, digestive disorders symptoms which are symptoms of anemia.
BONE MINERAL DENSITY
Conditions like osteoporosis are caused by lack of minerals. So with an artichoke containing high amounts of minerals such as: magnesium, phosphorus and manganese, you can help to increase your bone health and density. HEALTHIER LOOKING SKIN
Antioxidants help prevent your skin from sagging, becoming dry and dull, wrinkled and over-all aging appearance. And Vitamin C helps contribute to collagen development. Since artichokes contain high levels of both antioxidants and Vitamin C, it’s a win-win situation for our skin. Plus they have a positive effect on the digestive track and liver which means that you are able to flush out toxins and pollutants quickly. Two other things which contribute to aging looking skin.
METABOLISM BOOSTER Magnesium and manganese are two minerals which help to improve the body’s metabolic process. And, like mentioned earlier, artichokes contain high levels of both of these.
KEEP BLOOD PRESSURE REGULAR Lack of potassium is a big contributor to high blood pressure. But artichokes contain a high level of this mineral. Plus, potassium helps to neutralize the effects of excess sodium which is another contributor to high blood pressure.
And about that HANGOVER CURE….. Not sure chewing on some artichoke leaves after having too many adult beverages is the kind of food you would want. But some people do because artichokes help soothe the liver and help reduce blockages and toxins in the blood by eliminating them quickly.
Wonder if you could find artichokes on the menu at an all night diner?
Not that I’ve pointed out some of the amazing anti-aging benefits of an artichoke, and I’m sure you are ready to try one, here’s the process:
You want to select an artichoke globe that is dark green, leaves are tight, and it feels heavy. You can test for freshness by pressing the leaves against each other and if fresh, they will produce a squeaking sound.
Do not wash artichokes if you not going to eat them immediately.
You can store them in the refrigerator wrapped loosely in foil (or a plastic bag if you use plastic – but not the healthiest option). They should last for up to a week stored this way.
When you are ready to cook an artichoke:
- Make sure to wash it first
- Slice off the stem and remove the outer leaves closest to the stem
- Using a sharp knife slice off about 1” from the pointed end of the artichoke
- With a pair of scissors, cut off the prickly tip of each leaf
You can steam, boil or bake artichokes. The easiest way to cook an artichoke is:
- Fill a sauce pan with enough water to cover about 1/3 of the artichoke when placed in the pan with the cut side down.
- Add to the water:
- a clove of garlic
- ½ tsp. each: olive oil and lemon juice
- pinch of Himalayan salt and fresh ground black pepper
- bay leaf
- pinch of fresh thyme
- splash of white wine (opt.)
- Cover the pan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer for 20-30 minutes. Check the stem end with a fork for tenderness. You should be able to insert the fork without pushing.
- Turn artichoke over (so stem side is in water) and continue to simmer for about 10 more minutes. You should be able to separate the leaves easily.
- Remove from pan, spread the leaves and let cool but not get cold.
When cooked this way, there’s no need for any dipping sauces as the leaves are flavorful.
Now comes the fun part!!!
Start by pulling off a leaf. Then pull off the inside fleshy part with your teeth. Have an empty bowl ready to discard the outside of the leaves.
Once you have consumed the leaves, cut of the fuzzy layer that is covering the heart of the artichoke and discard.
What’s left is the heart of the artichoke. You can eat this or cut it up to add to a salad.
For a little more work – but so delicious – here’s a recipe from my grandmother’s Italian cookbook, “The Art of Italian Cooking” by Maria LoPinto.
Stuffed Artichokes Sicilian
4 large artichokes
1 cup bread crumbs
4 Tbs. grated Caciocavallo cheese (Romano or Asagio are probably easier to find)
4 chopped anchovy filets (I’d make this optional)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbs. parsley, chopped
6 Tbs. olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste
Wash and trim artichoke as above.
Tap on table to spread leaves open. Shake out all water.
Mix thoroughly bread crumbs, grated cheese, chopped parsley, anchovies, garlic, salt and pepper. Divide mixture into 4 parts and distribute one portion between the leaves of each artichoke. Then close.
Place upright in a saucepan to fit snugly.
Pour 1 Tbs. of olive oil over each artichoke. Put remaining oil in saucepan.
Add 1 cup water.
Cover tightly and cook slowly for ½ hour or until tender.
Test by pulling outer leaf. If it comes out easily, artichokes are done.
Watch water carefully, if it evaporates, add a little more
I’d love to hear if you have tried artichokes or if you might after reading this!!
In Peace and Good Health,
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