January is the first full month of winter. With a new season comes a new selection of vegetables that are at their peak ripeness for consumption. This winter, play around with one of the most interesting and dynamic vegetable around, the artichoke.
Artichokes have history dating all the way back to the time of the Greek and Roman empires. However, it was the Dutch who brought this vegetable to England. In the 19th century, the French brought the artichoke plant to Louisiana during the Louisiana Purchase. Spanish immigrants later brought it to California.
The artichoke that you are familiar with at the grocery store is actually the bud of a pre-bloomed flower. A true artichoke flower will sprout pedals of a beautiful bright purple hue. Once the flower blooms, the vegetable takes a hard, inedible form.
Today, artichokes are eaten steamed, boiled, roasted, grilled, stuffed, mixed in salads and topped on pizza. To truly appreciate this vegetable, it’s best to eat them fresh. These fresh veggies are a rich source of fiber and antioxidants. They also contain cynarin and sesquiterpene-lactones which studies show may inhibit cholesterol synthesis and increase bile excretion which both contribute to overall lower cholesterol levels.
Fresh artichoke is also a good source of folic acid. Folic acid is particularly important when regenerating DNA. This is an important factor when attempting to conceive a child. Women trying to get pregnant and those in the early stages of pregnancy benefit from getting more folic acid in their diet.
It is also one of the very few vegetables that is a good source of vitamin K. Although vitamin K is synthesized in the body, more is needed to limit damage to the brain and can actually help people with Alzheimer’s disease.
While you’re at the grocery store, remember to pick up one of these big green buds. Artichokes are best selected when the pedals just begin to open. Take a couple home to make this delicious recipe this January.