Artichoke is perennial vegetable that belongs to the thistle family of plants. The edible part of the plant is the bud before it opens into a flower. The immature florets in the center of the bud is called the “choke” but its not edible. You have to remove it from the base called the heart, which is the best part of the artichoke. The buds after removing the thorns, can be boiled or steamed and dipped in a variety of sauces like aioli or mayonnaise.
It is native to the Mediterranean. It is the food of ancient Greeks and Romans and considered a delicacy and aphrodisiac.
It was introduced to the US in the 1900’s by the French immigrants in Louisiana and by the Spanish immigrants in California. In Monterey County, Castorville has been known to be “The Artichoke Center of the World” and holds an annual festival honoring these wonderful vegetable. It produces 100% of the artichokes in the whole state.
Globe artichoke is a green variety that is well cultivated. “Romanesco” is the purple variety.
They are interesting plant to grow as vegetable or as an ornamental plants. The flower buds when open produces a beautiful lavender color flowers which has a sweet fragrance just like the picture I have here. Not only they are pretty in the garden, they are very architectural plants growing up to 6 ft. tall, but they are also very nutritious.
Like their cousin thistle, they contain silymarin which is used to protect the liver and help to reduce bad cholesterol. It has vitamins C and B vitamins, folic acid and minerals like copper, potassium and iron.
I like to use artichoke as a substitute for banana hearts when I make our famous dish called “kare-kare. It’s really good.