Artichokes (Cynara cardunculus) are perennial thistles and members of the sunflower family. The Globe artichoke is not to be confused with the Jerusalem artichoke which is a knobbly tuber, and the Chinese artichoke, which is a perennial herb of the mint family, grown for its edible tuberous underground stems.
The Globe artichoke is a plant native to the Mediterranean area and has many nutritional benefits such as fibre, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, calcium, iron, and potassium. The leaf, stem, and root are also used to make extracts, which are used as medicine – reducing nausea and vomiting, spasms and gas. It is also used for indigestion, lowering cholesterol, high blood pressure, hepatitis C and IBS…. although that all depends on credible scientific evidence!
So, whilst artichokes can be quite demanding (as you will see) the rewards for my diligence have been positive so far, even though I do have a tendency to ‘go off piste’ when it comes to guidance on planting-out distances and suchlike:
Each head should be removed using secateurs, leaving a few inches of stem attached for the best possible flavour. Globe artichokes are best cut one hour before cooking.
The artichoke is actually the bud of a thistle—a flower. The leaves (called "bracts") cover a fuzzy centre called the "choke", which sits on top of a meaty core, called the "heart". The heart is completely edible and the “best bit”. The fuzzy choke is too fibrous to eat in regular artichokes, but edible in baby artichokes. All but the innermost leaves are tough and can be fiddly to eat – scraping them with your teeth to eat the tender parts.
I have only eaten fresh artichokes on a few occasions, and usually buy them when feeling a bit flush and doing some “lifestyle shopping” at the deli! Therefore, I have had to look up ‘how to cook artichokes’ on various websites and will have to report back when I have successfully applied my new skills and knowledge….?*!
"Artichoke: That vegetable of which one has more at the finish than at the start of dinner." Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield 1694—1773) was a British statesman, diplomat, man of letters, and an acclaimed wit of his time.