Artichokes are a top antioxidant-rich vegetable that is high in fiber and low in fat making them an ideal weight loss food. The globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) is a variety of a species of thistle cultivated as a food.
Artichokes are also a natural diuretic which means they are able to help flush the body of edema and reduce bloating and overall water retention.
They are a good source of folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin K, B-complex, potassium, copper, iron, and antioxidants such as anthocyanins, quercertin, rutin, cynarin, luteolin and silymarin. Silymarin is highly beneficial for the liver and has been shown to regenerate liver tissue making them a great food for those suffering with liver problems or those trying to cleanse and detox the body.
Artichokes also contain a compound called inulin which provides nutrition to the good health promoting bacteria in the intestinal tract. This inulin also has been shown to help balance and stabilize blood glucose levels making them an excellent choice for diabetics.
Artichokes are also known to aid digestion and improve gallbladder function which makes them good for those suffering with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or other digestive ailments.
Artichoke leaves contain compounds that can reduce cholesterol by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase, this means they have the ability to raise good cholesterol (HDL) and lower bad cholesterol (LDL). This ability also helps to prevent excessive fatty deposits in the liver and blood which protects the body from arteriosclerosis.
Artichoke leaf extract has been shown to kill off cancer cells and protect the liver from oxidative stress. Artichoke leaf extract is readily available in capsule form and can be found online or at your local health food store.
Fresh steamed artichokes have a rich, nutty flavor that make them a delicious, satisfying, and guilt-free food. The tops of the artichoke are cut off as they have a thorn and it opens up the inside to cook more evenly. Try steaming 4-6 artichokes for 45 min – 1 hr., with slices of lemons in the water.
Once cooled, the leaves can be peeled off and the heart can be scooped out. Place each portion in a Ziploc bag and store in the fridge. This way you can have a healthy, nutritious, and low fat snack ready to eat right out of the fridge and on the go for you and your family all week long.
Or you can just eat the artichoke, one leaf at a time, scrapping the soft meat off the bottom of the leaves, and as you get towards the center, there is more soft meat to have. The heart of the artichoke is soft and like discovering a treasure.
Artichokes can be stuffed, grilled, and even preserved for later use.
An artichoke plant, which can spread into a silvery green fountain up to 6 feet across, makes a bold, handsome addition to any garden.
There are three ways to begin your artichoke garden: with seed, with shoots taken from existing plants, or with dormant roots. Artichokes are easily started from seed in a greenhouse or under fluorescent lights.
Artichoke seedlings need lots of nutrients as they develop, so fertilize them with fish emulsion or something similar. Transplant the seedlings 8 to 10 weeks later, but only after the soil has warmed and the danger of hard frost has passed.
The transplants should be 8 to 10 inches tall, with stocky stems and two sets of true leaves. Because they grow quite large, they should be planted at least 4 feet apart.
Artichokes need plenty of water to produce those big, succulent buds. You may need to water up to three times a week during a hot, dry spell, especially if it occurs while the buds are forming. Like too little water, an unexpected late frost can also toughen or destroy developing buds.
Water also benefits the artichoke plant’s deep roots, which are fleshy and become quite thick. They need to be kept moist, especially during the dry months. An artichoke garden patch need to drain well so the plant does not rot.
Harvest an artichoke with a slice through the stem just below the bud, which should be large, firm, and tightly closed.
If a few buds escape your knife, they will open into spectacular, purple-blue, 6-inch thistle-like flowers. Allowing the buds to flower, however, may reduce the plant’s vigor for the following year’s crop in perennial plantings.
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