We bet all of you have tasted artichoke, as it has become a common appetizer at many parties and even in restaurants. For instance, Earls Restaurant has a Warm Three Cheese & Spinach dip with artichokes that people rave about. However, watch out for the calorie and sodium count in this appetizer (942 calories; 2066 mg sodium)!
Most artichoke-based appetizers are made from artichoke hearts, the center of the artichoke. These hearts are readily available, cooked and packaged into cans. They are handy to have in your pantry for last minute entertaining, or for adding variety to your weekly meals. However, there is more versatility to an artichoke than just its heart.
Have you ever seen a raw artichoke or cooked it from scratch? The outer parts of this vegetable are also edible but often overlooked. They are just a bunch of leaves tightly held together in a flower-looking globe. The artichoke is actually part of the thistle family! The stem is long and stalky and also edible. The artichoke in a raw form is unattractive and looks like one of those vegetables you just wouldn’t know what to do with.
Growing up, artichokes were at our dinner table often. The simplest dish consisted of boiled artichokes with a bowl containing a blend of olive oil and vinegar as a dip for the artichoke leaves. We’d take off one leaf from its blossom, dip the fleshy bottom part of the leaf into the dip, and then scrape off the dipped portion with our teeth. Sound unappetizing but we assure you that it’s tasty!
There are many other ways you can prepare and enjoy artichoke and we’ll share some recipes with you below in our Easy Recipes section.
Nutritional Profile and Health Benefits
The artichoke has many health and nutritional benefits. In particular, it helps the digestive system, has antioxidant properties, and is low in calories and fat.
Just one small artichoke can provide a large part of your daily requirement for a number of nutrients and vitamins. Based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet, a 100 g serving of artichoke (about 1, small) delivers the following:
- 14% of Dietary fiber – critical for digestive health and keeping your “pipes” clear!
- 20% of Vitamin C – its antioxidant properties help combat free radicals.
- 17% of Folic acid – especially important for women who are pregnant or planning pregnancy.
- 12% of Vitamin K – helpful for bone health.
Artichokes are also high in some key minerals our bodies need, such as copper, iron, and magnesium. These minerals are essential to growth, production of hemoglobin and myoglobin, nerve functioning, and overall metabolic processes.
Cynarin and sesquiterpene-lactones, which give artichokes their bitterness, may help reduce cholesterol. Some scientific studies have shown that “artichoke has moderately lowered cholesterol and triglycerides in some, but not all, human trials.” (http://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hn-2038002#hn-2038002-uses)
Looking for an after-dinner digestive drink? Cynar is a liqueur made from artichoke bitter, herbs and plants. It is a popular drink in Italy. It has a bitter taste so you want to try this before you buy a case load! We remember drinking this as kids when we had an upset stomach. Yes, it was a home remedy in those days, just like using whiskey for tooth aches!
Okay, to the fun part! Here are some recipes we found for you to try. You can also refer to our Spinach Artichoke Mini Frittatas, which we’ve posted previously.
Whole Foods Market has a number of recipes with artichokes. Check out their recipes at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/search/artichokes. Here are just two from their list:
This recipe is made with a few ingredients and is cooked in parchment paper, which makes clean up very easy!
Another great recipe from Whole Foods that takes the traditional and makes it modern! In this recipe, they replace the breadcrumbs with quinoa and in the process add more protein.
This recipe from Delicious Living is simple to make. It can be served as a great side dish. As a main course, just add quinoa to your meal to enhance the protein intake.
We have one more recipe from Mary’s kitchen for our Recipe of the Week.