Spring is the season for beautiful artichokes, which are full of nutrition and flavor. Find out why you should love artichokes now!
This post was originally written by an assistant contributor Tiana Yom, MPH, CHES
Spring is right around the corner, which means that artichokes are finally in season!
While many of us think of artichokes as a vegetable, they are actually thistles, which are a group of flowering plants characterized by leaves with sharp prickles on the margins. They are closely related to ragweed, daisies, marigolds, and chrysanthemums. Many people who suffer from allergies to those flowers might need to steer clear of artichokes.
Artichokes are definitely a nutrient-rich vegetable and there are so many great reasons to eat them this spring.
5 Reasons to Love Artichokes
1. Artichokes are low-calorie and nutrient-rich.
One medium artichoke has 64 calories, and 1/2 cup of artichoke hearts has 45 calories. They are an excellent source of fiber and a good source of vitamin C, folate, and magnesium. Artichokes are also an under-recognized source of potassium – they have about as much as a small banana!
2. Artichokes are antioxidant-rich.
Artichokes contain an unusual amount of antioxidants, which reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and Alzheimer’s disease. Two antioxidants in artichokes, cynarin and silymarin, have been shown to promote liver health by reducing the presence of and facilitating the elimination of toxins from the liver.
3. Artichokes come in many different varieties.
Varieties include baby, long-stemmed, globe, organic, and heirloom. Many people only think about the meaty core of the artichoke – the heart – as the edible part of this plant. However, the base of the petals and the center of the stem are also edible and easier to cook than you may think. Just be sure to discard the fuzzy “choke” covering the heart (except for baby artichokes, which don’t have one).
4. Artichokes are fun to eat!
The easiest way to cook an artichoke is to steam it and serve with a dipping sauce for the fleshy part of the petals, which can be scraped off with your teeth. This is a fun way to enjoy artichokes with friends at a dinner party or to give kids for a snack.
5. Artichokes are versatile.
Whether fresh, frozen, or canned, you can use artichokes to make dips, add to casseroles and omelets, chop into salads, thread on kebabs, or roast for a side dish.
When choosing artichokes at the supermarket, look for heavy and firm globes with compact bright green leaves. It’s also been said that really fresh artichokes will squeak when squeezed! To store, Ocean Mist Farms, the largest grower of fresh artichokes in the US, recommends slicing a dime-width off the stem, sprinkle the stem with water, and store in the refrigerator for no more than 5 to 7 days.
If purchasing canned artichokes, look for those canned in water and rinse before using to reduce sodium. Many packaged artichokes are marinated in olive oil, which are delicious, but keep in mind the calories can add up.
Ocean Mist has a great section showing the different methods for preparing artichokes, all of which begin with the first step of cleaning and prepping the artichokes for cooking:
- Rinse artichoke under cold water.
- With a sharp, serrated kitchen knife, cut about one inch from the top of the artichoke. Use kitchen scissors to snip the thorny tops of the remaining petals.
- Trim the stem about one half inch or remove the stem if you need it to “sit up” on a plate for stuffing or filling.
Once cleaned, the artichokes are ready to cook. Check out this Amazing Artichoke Recipe Roundup to get some ideas and get ready to enjoy!