Spring - Artichoke

How to select for best flavor:

 Fresh, ripe artichokes are crisp and will squeak when rubbed together. This is probably the best test of an artichoke’s freshness. Look for a compact, green head with tightly closed leaves. Artichokes tend to open up as they mature, so this is a good way to tell how fresh they are. Old artichokes tend to shrivel and take on a grayish or tannish cast. These should be avoided.

Peak of the season:

Artichokes are available all year round, but the best selection and price can be found from March through May.

 

Nutritional value:

Artichokes vary in nutritional value by size and also by the stage at which they are picked. Generally, artichokes are a good source of protein, iron and calcium. They also have fair amounts of vitamins A and B1. One artichoke contains about 55 calories, nearly no fat and 79 mgs. of sodium.

 

General information:

Don’t confuse the globe artichoke with a Jerusalem artichoke. Jerusalem artichokes are not artichokes at all. They are related to the sunflower and are used the same way you would use a potato.

 

Artichokes are best steamed and the leaves peeled off one at a time, as the succulent part is on the inside lower portion of each leaf. The hair at the center must be scraped out to reveal the heart of the artichoke, truly a delicacy!

 

In the 16th century, artichokes were thought to be an aphrodisiac. This theory has not held up well in practice, but eating an artichoke can be a very sensual experience. Eat them with someone you love.