Saturday, 9 July 2011


There is some confusion in the names of the globe artichoke and the Jerusalem artichoke (arabee), the latter being an edible tuber, and the former a member of the thistle family, related to the cardoon and the milk-thistle. The botanical name “skolymus” means thistle in Greek. It has its origins in the Mediterranean region and is used in both Greek and Italian cuisine. It is fiddly to eat and prepare, although worth buying on the stem as this can be used in salads. In most countries, however, the stem is removed before sale. If you do manage to get a whole fresh plant, use the stems but discard the leaves as they are bitter. The leaves on the head of the artichoke are what are referred to on recipes.
  The plant can grow to 5 feet tall, and normally are around 3 feet high. They can be harvested in spring but are not available in winter months if they are grown in gardens.
  The globe artichoke was used in ancient Greece and Rome as food and medicine as it was thought to be liver protective and modern medical studies have borne this out. It arrived in Britain during the 16th century and was grown in monastery gardens, although the Brits have not really adopted this vegetable in a big way. This may have changed since artichoke hearts can now be bought canned and frozen, making them more accessible.
The globe artichoke comes before the flower which is a huge, glorious thistle flower, so the artichoke we eat is the bud of the plant. If you don’t want to eat the artichoke whole, you can use the hearts as in the recipe below, and take the leaves off the globe, boil them for about 5 minutes and let them cool to use in a salad. Before boiling them, snip off the top of each leaf which might be thorny. You can also add the leaves to soups and stews.
  Stems should be par-boiled or blanched before eating, although they can be eaten raw and are good when drizzled with olive oil.
  The leaf extracts and extracts from the stems contain cynarin, which has been found to help lower blood cholesterol levels and to improve the functioning of the liver and gall bladder. This can help in the early stages of late onset diabetes.
  The globe of the artichoke is high in fibre and contains vitamins C and K, folate and some of the B-complex ones, as well as the minerals copper, magnesium and manganese. It also contains flavonoids and phenolic acids such as luteolin, and inulin which increases the body’s ability to absorb calcium and magnesium, regulates blood glucose levels and reduces cholesterol.
  Traditionally artichokes have been used to treat many ailments and have been shown to be effective against rheumatism. Dioscorides, in the first century AD recommended the mashed roots as a deodorant.
  Other uses have been for jaundice, loss of appetite, indigestion, flatulence, stomach pains, nervous complaints, oedema (they have diuretic properties), nausea, constipation, gallstones and liver problems.
  I love them in lemon sauce as prepared in Greece, and below is an adaptation of a Greek recipe which just needs the hearts, so canned or frozen hearts can be used. In Italy globe artichokes may be served alone with a sauce, or the hearts can be found in risottos or on pizzas, but they are especially good grilled with a selection of other fresh seasonal vegetables.

10 artichoke hearts
10 small shallots
1 lb small new potatoes, scrubbed
4-6 medium carrots, scrapped and sliced
250 gr fresh peas in pod, shelled
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
1 handful fresh dill, snipped
½ pint chicken stock (recipe)
¼ pint white wine
¼ pint fresh lemon juice
2 tbsps flour
olive oil

Heat oil in a pan and fry the whole shallots, onions and garlic for 5 minutes, then add the sliced carrots, and potatoes, and fry for a further 5 minutes.
Add the flour and stir well, then slowly while still stirring, add the chicken stock and white wine.
Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for half an hour.
Now add the artichoke hearts, peas, dill, lemon juice and seasoning.
Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Serve hot or cold.
You can add more olive oil to this dish when you add the stock, if you want to.
Serve with fresh crusty bread or garlic bread.
This has Taste and is a Treat.

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