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Properties of the artichoke

Artichokes are one of the most commonly used ingredients in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. It is cultivated mainly in the Mediterranean area, although it is also produced in the USA. That being said, the artichoke is nothing more than the Cynara scolymus plant’s flower. Its life cycle typically starts from autumn to spring; in fact, its peak season starts in February through March.

This plant is valued for its nutritional content in addition to its flavour and adaptability. As seen by its ability to cleanse and act as a diuretic, it actually has virtually medicinal qualities. In addition, artichokes have a higher fibre content than most other vegetables and herbs. Excellent levels of vitamins and mineral salts are also present; this plant has high levels of potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin C.

Here is a list of its main properties:

The artichoke has been cultivated for millennia, so it is not surprising that numerous varieties exist today. Here are the most consumed ones in Italy.

  • Violet: It is characterised by its vaguely purple colour and the sweetness of its leaves.
  • White: As the name implies, it is distinguished by the leaves’ pale hue, which leans towards green. It can be eaten raw or with very little seasoning because it is very delicate.
  • Thorny: It is a very unique variety, since it needs to be cooked for an extended period of time. Its flavour is especially enjoyed because it is robust and full-bodied.
  • Round: The dimensions are small, and the shape is partially ovoid. It does not require extensive cooking and is mainly used to season pasta and rice.
  • Romanesco: It is probably the most famous variety because it is the protagonist of many recipes. The leaves are medium-tender, generally very small, and ideal for frying.

What are the benefits of artichokes?

I have already mentioned the nutritional properties of artichokes. It is now worth talking about the benefits of this plant; after all, we are talking about an incredibly healthy food.

To begin with, they contain purifying substances, which facilitate the activity of the liver, protecting it from the risk of “overload.” The good news is that these substances are still active even after cooking, resisting high temperatures very well.

Because they contain a lot of fibre, artichokes are also easily digested. Moreover, cooking has no effect on this functionality. In addition, they contain beta-carotene, which helps the skin and eyes absorb vitamin A.

Finally, artichokes are good for bones and teeth, thanks to their discreet calcium intake. They are also good for the immune system, as they are rich in vitamin C, zinc, and selenium. The latter two substances are quite rare in nature.

How to choose the best artichokes.

Artichokes boast a fair variety, although they differ in quality, taste, and nutritional properties. For this reason, there is a need to select them in the best possible way, such as in the classic popular market.

It’s a good idea to consider a few unusual characteristics when selecting artichokes. that is, the leaf’s consistency, colour, and form. A fresh artichoke will not feel mushy to the touch because a good artichoke is, by definition, hard.

A high-quality artichoke also has extremely pale interior leaves and very dark exterior leaves. Lastly, the leaves need to stick to the main body. Additionally, take note of the stem, which ought to be as dents-free and smooth as possible.

The artichoke needs to be closed because it is susceptible to oxidation by nature. In fact, it can easily become black and lose some of its delicate scents. It’s no accident that the leaves are submerged in water with a dash of lemon juice during the preparation stage.

The best recipes

Artichokes are not only good and healthy but also very versatile, as they can be prepared in many different ways, to the point that there are several recipes available: baked, boiled, stewed artichokes, etc. Here I present some creative ideas, which I have already had the opportunity to discuss on this site.

Artichoke and apple salad: It is a very unique side dish, as it is both savoury and sweet. In this recipe, the artichokes are boiled.

Artichoke omelette: Artichokes are the best addition to omelettes because they give them flavour and texture. In this recipe, the artichokes have to be fried before being added to the eggs.

Artichoke and mozzarella tarts: These tarts make a sophisticated yet rustic appetiser. The innermost layers of the tarts are formed by cooking the artichokes in a skillet with a little garlic for an extended period of time. To embellish everything, we use the mozzarella and the sauce (which is obtained from cooking the artichokes themselves). In short, we are talking about a tasty and easy-to-prepare delicacy.

Sautéed artichokes: It is a great classic of Italian cuisine. You need to coat the artichokes and season them with garlic, butter, oil, and parsley before sautéing them.

Roman-Jewish fried artichokes, a traditional Roman dish: Fried artichokes, or “Carciofi alla Giudia,” are a celebrated delicacy from Rome’s Jewish community, dating back centuries. This iconic dish features whole artichokes, which are cleaned, spread open like flowers, and deep-fried in olive oil until crisp. The result is a perfect combination of crunchy leaves on the outside with a tender heart on the inside. Typically seasoned simply with salt and perhaps a squeeze of lemon, these artichokes are a quintessential expression of Roman-Jewish culinary tradition, offering a delightful texture and flavor that’s both rustic and refined.

Carciofi alla giudia

Roman-Jewish fried artichokes, a traditional Roman dish

Origins and curiosities of Roman-Jewish fried artichokes Roman-Jewish fried artichokes are one of...