Artichoke is the common name for a plant of the composite flower family. The artichoke grows wild in the south of Europe and is cultivated in the United States, primarily in California.
The stem grows up to 3 feet high, branched, with large heads of violet-colored (sometimes white), thistle-like flowers at the summits of the branches. The thickened receptacle (heart) and fleshy bases of the scales (leaves) of the immature flower are the portions eaten. Often thrown away, the core of artichoke stems, once peeled, are perfectly edible and taste like the artichoke heart.
This diuretic vegetable aids digestion, strengthens liver and gall bladder function and reduces cholesterol levels, diminishing the risk for arteriosclerosis and coronary heart disease. Artichokes also contains anticancer agents Apigenin, Luteolin.
The origin of artichokes is unknown, though they are said to have come from the Maghreb (North Africa), where they are still found in the wild state; the seeds of artichokes, probably cultivated, were found during the excavation of Mons Claudianus in Egypt during the Roman period. Henry VIII grew them, perhaps intrigued by their reputation as an aphrodisiac.
There is mention of the plant in Greek and Roman literature as far back as 77AD. Artichokes were cultivated by the North African Moors near Granada Spain about 800AD. The Spanish settlers brought artichokes to California in the 1600's. They did not become widely grown or used in California until the 1920's. Now 100% of the US artichoke crop is grown in California.
None other than the fabulous Marilyn Monroe was crowned Artichoke Queen in Castroville in 1948. Eighty percent of all artichokes grown commercially are from there.
Marinated Artichoke Hearts
Hot Swiss Chard Artichoke Dip
The 1948 Artichoke Queen