As vegetables go, the artichoke is among the most fascinating visually. It is as beautiful as it is delightful to eat. You may be interested to know that the artichoke is actually the bud of a plant from the thistle family and at full maturity, the plant grows to a width of about six feet and a height of three to four. If not harvested from the plant, the bud will eventually blossom into a beautiful, blue-violet flower, which is not edible.
The bud contains the heart, the delightful meaty core of the artichoke, and is topped by a fuzzy center, or choke, which is surrounded by rows of petals, which protect the artichoke heart. With their tiny thorns, the artichoke’s petals reveal their thistle heritage. The thorns aren’t a problem if handled carefully and they soften in cooking. Artichokes promoted as thornless have smaller hearts, less meat and their flavor is not as robust. When preparing an artichoke, you discard the center ‘choke’ but the base of the petals, the center of the stem and the entire artichoke heart are completely edible and easy to cook.
The artichoke is a low-calorie, nutrient-rich vegetable. According to the USDA, one medium artichoke is an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C and a good source of folate and magnesium. Artichokes also are a natural source of antioxidants. Artichokes contain phytonutrients, or plant compounds that have antioxidant properties and promote human health. Some of the most powerful, polyphenol-type antioxidants are found in artichokes, including: gallic acid, rutin, anthocyanins and quercetin, all of which have potent antioxidant properties. When it comes to nutrition, artichokes offer unique nutritional value. They’re packed full of potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, dietry fiber and protein.