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Artichokes: A Vegetable to Compete with the Centerpiece
Artichokes add zing to savory dishes, but they remain something of a rare treat. Learn why with Groupon’s look at this armor-clad veggie.
A whole artichoke resembles a bud in a bouquet addressed to the Jolly Green Giant. And although it may be best known as a vegetable, it is in fact a type of flower—a thistle, to be precise. It makes a pretty addition to the crisper case at the supermarket, but the appeal of an artichoke would be less than intuitive to anyone encountering the plant in the wild. The stalks are thick and weedy, and each petal of the bud is tipped with a thorny protrusion. To get to the creamy, mellow heart at the center, it’s necessary to strip away both the petals and the “choke,” the fibrous layer below them. The hearts then can be marinated, sautéed, or used in a number of French and Italian specialties. For a more eye-catching and social preparation, the whole head can be steamed and stuffed with cheese, bread crumbs, and spices, ready to have the good stuff sucked from the base of each petal where it meets the heart.
Artichokes are excellent sources of dietary fiber, as well as being rich in vitamins C and A, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. In Renaissance Europe, they were thought to have another benefit: rumor had it that they were a powerful aphrodisiac, such that it was considered scandalous for a woman to be seen eating them.
- Look for artichokes during their prime growing season of March through May, or after the final harvest in October.
- About 75% of the world’s artichokes are farmed in the tiny town of Castroville, California, which once crowned a very young Marilyn Monroe as its annual festival’s first Artichoke Queen.