artichoke

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Also Known as
Globe Artichoke, Artichaut

Description
Originating from Sicily and still very widely used in Italian cooking, the artichoke was first regarded in France mainly as a remedy for various ailments. They are grown today in the west (Brittany), the south east and around Paris. It is a perennial vegetable whose immature edible flower head is formed of a fleshy heart (base), surrounded by scaly leaves. After the inedible hairy central core (choke) has been removed, the base is eaten. The bases of the leaves are also edible.

The various varieties include:

Camus of Brittany: round, large and large base (heart).

Green artichokes: They originate at Laon and have more pointed scales.

Violet artichokes: They originate at Provence. They can be eaten raw when small.

How to Select
It is available all year around, though it is at its best during summers. While selecting artichokes, choose one that is firm and heavy, with stiff tightly packed leaves. Open leaves would indicate that it is over ripe and therefore very hard. They come in various colours like bright green, violet, bluish green etc.

Culinary Uses
· When tender and young, they can be served as a filling for omelettes, as fritters and au gratin.
· Large artichokes, usually steamed or cooked in water, are served hot or cold, along with a sauce.
· It can be served as a salad or stuffed as a accompaniment to main course.
· Use in pastas, risottos, quiche or as a topping for pizzas.
· Chop the hearts very fine and use in a vinaigrette dressing or combine with mayonnaise and use as a dip.

How to Store

Uncooked artichokes may be kept fresh for a few days if their stalks are kept in water. Keep changing the water every now and then.
Cooked artichokes keep well if stored under refrigerated conditions for upto a day.
To freeze artichokes, cook them in blanching water (add lemon juice to maintain colour). Cool, seal in zip lock bags and store in the freezer.

Health Benefits

· It has diuretic properties and is rich in iron and potassium.
· It has a low energy value of 63 calories per 100gms.
· It is known to positively help poor liver function (thus helping to lower the blood cholesterol), arteriosclerosis and gout.
· It supports the treatment of hepatitis and improves the gall secretions.
· As it helps the body rid itself of excess water and removes toxins it also has the added side effect of improving skin conditions.




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