Where do I come from?
I am from the Mediterranean. I'm in the daisy family the same as my long lost cousin the Jerusalem artichoke (actually a sunflower) but I am a variety of thistle. Records from ancient Roman and Greek times call me kaktos (Greek) and carduus (Roman and where I get the name cardoon from). These days I'm mainly grown in Italy, France and Spain for the European market and California for the North American one. Wild versions of me are grown in North Africa and the Canary Islands.
What do I look like?
Bit like a thistle unsurprisingly. I'm green/purple and globe shaped (hence the name Globe Artichoke to distinguish me from the Chinese herb or the Jerusalem tuber). The ends of my leaves and the bud are the edible parts, discard my tough outside leaves. I'm pretty sharp (it's that thistle thing again), so go slowly and carefully when you're cutting me up for cooking.
And on the inside?
Tightly packed layers of pale green to white leaves. The inner leaves are light green with purple tips and once you've pulled them out, there is the 'choke' - a fluffy inedible centre - discard that also. The rest you can steam whole for about 25-30 minutes (check after 20 minutes). Small, baby artichokes often don't have a 'choke'.
What do I do?
I'm brilliant at aiding digestion. Numerous studies have shown that I'm great for treating irritable stomachs and chronic digestive complaints. I'm also great for bile issues. I can help liver and bladded conditions by promoting bile flow in the body and helping increase fat digestion. This means I'm also useful for helping with the prevention and treatment of high cholesterol (I breakdown cholesterol into bile salts and help regulate cholesterol in your liver). Before statins became available I was widely used to reduce LDL (the bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (the good one). In addition to all of that I also contain excellent levels of antioxidants (including anthocyanins, gallic acid, luteolin, cynarin and silymarin), I also contain quercetin (an anti-carcinogen flavonoid) and rutin (a flavonoid that promtoes cardiovascular health).
Now you've learned all about artichokes, you're ready to use me! Pre-prepared artichokes include Organico's Artichoke Spread and Artichokes in Oil and Marinated Artichokes from Cypressa. I'm also available as a supplement or as a great digestive tea from Natur Boutique or try this Artichoke Juice from Biona or Plant Juice from Salus .