- Artichokes are a good source of dietary fiber, which lowers the energy density of food and contributes to efficient digestion. A 1/2 cup of artichoke hearts (or about 85 grams' worth) has more than 25 percent Daily Value of fiber you need in a day.
- This same amount of artichoke hearts is also a good source of folic acid, which helps maintain red blood cells and, along with other B vitamins, plays a role in brain and nervous system health.
- This tender ingredient is also a good source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps maintain healthy gums, repair body tissue and heal wounds.
Artichokes are the bud of a flowering plant, one that's a close relative of the thistle. People have eaten artichokes throughout all of history, but Americans only started to cultivate them during the 20th century. In fact, California used to name a yearly Artichoke Queen as a way of popularizing the vegetable. Who was the most famous woman to wear the crown? You may have heard of her: 1947's Norma Jeane Baker, who'd just begun modeling under the name Marilyn Monroe.
Artichokes come in many different varieties, most of which are pretty similar: the French, the Desert Globe, the Green Globe, the Imperial Star, the Big Heart. However, a Jerusalem artichoke isn't an artichoke at all — not that you'd mistake it for one. The Jerusalem variety is technically a member of the sunflower family, so it looks more like a long root than a leafy bulb.
When are Artichokes in Season?
Different artichokes peak at different times, which means you can usually find a few varieties in season at any time of year.
How to Choose Artichokes
Choose artichokes with a thick, firm stem. A good artichoke will surprise you by feeling heavier than it looks. Give it a squeeze. Does it squeak? Then you know you've picked a winner.
How to Store Artichokes
Refrigerate your artichokes. Try to use them within a week of purchase, since that's when they taste best.
How to Cook Artichokes
A steaming hot artichoke takes some work, so get ready to spend a significant amount of your time prepping them. To begin, cut the stems down to an inch or less in length. Pick off any little petals clinging to the stem. Next, using a sharp paring knife, cut away the sharp upper quarter of the artichoke, as well as the spiny tips of the petals. Now, boil three quarts of water in a saucepan, place the artichokes inside, cover them and let them cook for about 30 minutes. A finished artichoke will have petals that come off easily, leaving a fuzz-covered center called the "heart." Rather than cooking on a stovetop, you can also place them in a water-filled, microwave-safe dish and microwave them for 6 to 8 minutes.
Fresh artichokes are usually measured in whole buds, also called "heads" or "globes." However, dip recipes may call for cups of chopped artichoke hearts.
In place of a typical artichoke, you might try Jerusalem artichokes (for flavor) or hearts of palm (for texture).
Basic Artichoke Recipe
See the "How to cook artichokes" section above for instructions on boiling or microwaving. Once your 'chokes are cooked, let them cool for 10 or 15 minutes minimum. Next, pull away the leaves one at a time and use your teeth to scrape and suck away the pulpy ends. When you get down to the succulent heart, scrape away the fuzzy top, cut off the remaining stem and eat it whole.
Artichokes in Recipes
You know you want it: thick, creamy Spinach-Artichoke Dip with Parmesan cheese.
For a hot sandwich that won't hit you in the waistline, you can hardly do better than this Healthified Turkey-Artichoke Pannini.
And for dinner, make Grilled Chicken with Pepper and Artichokes as a way to boost the flavor and color of ordinary chicken breasts.