The Artichoke Adventure

If you’ve neglected artichokes because they look intimidating and you’ve heard they’re complicated, delay no more! Eating this healthy veggie is a ritual that builds to its own delicious climax.

If you’ve neglected artichokes because they look intimidating and you’ve heard they’re complicated, delay no more! Behind the rough exterior is a nutritious and flavorful vegetable that can be consumed in several ways. Growing season peaks in the spring, so you can enjoy this tasty veggie fresh right now. It’s not just a super food—it’s an experience.

POWER UP A 41⁄4-ounce serving contains six grams of dietary fiber, which equals about a quarter of your recommended daily value. That same serving supplies 20 percent of the vitamin C you’ll need for the day. Artichokes are also cholesterol-free, low in fat and calories, and high in potassium and fiber, and they contain folate, magnesium and other minerals. In a recent department of agriculture study, they ranked among the top vegetables in disease-fighting antioxidants, thought to help guard against heart disease and cancer.

BUY/STORE/SERVE An artichoke should look and feel its weight. Choose a heavy, firm one with closed leaves and a dark green color. Store, unwashed, in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to one week. (As with all produce, wash before cooking and eating.)Before you cook an artichoke, cut the stalk off at the base and cut about one inch off the top. They can be boiled, steamed, baked or grilled. And Italian cuisine features tasty stuffed artichokes, which can include ingredients such as bread crumbs, parsley, garlic and romano cheese inserted between the leaves.

But it’s the way an artichoke is eaten that makes it truly distinctive. Once it’s cooked, start by pulling off the leaves one by one, dipping them in melted butter or a sauce of your choice and scraping off the tender pulp with your teeth, discarding the leafy shell. As you progress inward, you’ll be rewarded with more and more of this tasty “meat.” he ultimate goal of your quest is the artichoke’s soft, delicious heart. But like many of life’s delights, it exacts a price in labor: first you must use a spoon to remove the fuzzy inedible “choke” that surrounds it. then cut the heart in pieces, dip in sauce and enjoy!

Try substituting artichoke leaves for tortilla chips for a healthier snack option. As for the tender hearts, the possibilities are virtually endless. You can eat them as an appetizer or a side dish or add them to pastas, salads, dips and other culinary creations. Finally, if you’re in a hurry, canned, jarred or frozen artichoke hearts can be a useful option—though they won’t give you the full artichoke adventure. —Corey Donetz

Did You Know? Though Italy leads the world in artichoke production, with the U.S. ranked ninth, Monterey county, California, calls itself “The Artichoke Center of the World.” Marilyn Monroe visited in 1947 and was photographed for ads wearing a sash labeled “California Artichoke Queen.”

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