Friday, May 27, 2011

What's in Season? - Artichokes

Although you might be able to find these year-round in the grocery stores, artichoke season begins in Spring and continues through Fall. I confess that I don’t have a lot of experience with this vegetable aside from already-prepared, marinated artichoke hearts from a jar, but after learning about what they’ve got to offer, I’ve decided that I’m going to give them the consideration they deserve.

Their nutritional content is impressive! A large artichoke has about 60 calories, is high in fiber and vitamins such as C, K, B vitamins (especially folate) and packs a wealth of minerals, including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese.

Similar to many of the Spring vegetables I’ve featured this week, artichokes are great for helping the liver detoxify and the ancient Egyptians prized them as a health food.

When eaten small, the entire artichoke is edible, however when they get larger, like the size of a softball, the choke becomes surrounded by a hairy layer that needs to be removed to get to the heart and their outer leaves become tough. The inner surface of the leaves remains tender and can be scraped off with the teeth, which is typically the way they’re eaten (after they’re dipped into something tasty, of course!).

Some traditional ways to prepare them include stuffing them with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese then steaming or boiling them. The hearts can also be chopped and added to sauces, dressings, grain dishes and stuffings.

What’s your favorite way to eat artichokes??

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