It’s May and that means it is Artichoke season. I have a passion for this gorgeous green flower that even I don’t understand. I think it all began when I used to eat them as a kid at my grandmothers house. They were always steamed and served whole with droves of hot Garlic Butter on the side for dipping. I ate every leaf and scraped them clean with my little teeth. When I finally reached the tiny purple leaves inside, my mother would clear the heart of the prickly choke so it didn’t hurt me. I’m not quite sure if I even knew what the flavor was in so much as I was mostly interested in the entertainment value of the Vegetable itself. A food that I got to play with that had a ritual of dipping and eating with my hands? Well, that was like a little food creatrix-to-be fantasy come true. Taste wouldn’t matter anyway, as it was the Garlic Butter that was important. The heart at the end was like a prize, almost a Veggie version of Cracker Jack or a Kinder Egg and like hitting the jack pot every time at a slot machine.
Flash forward to adulthood and I am still smitten. I will order them in any restaurant they are on the menu of just to see how the chef prepares them. My favorite preparation is the Italian Carchofi a la Giueda – the entire flower fried to a crisp. Not the healthiest of choices, but when done perfectly, they absorb little of the Olive Oil. I am quite content with a shaved Raw Artichoke Salad with a squeeze of Lemon juice and a bit olive oil. Most people enjoy a few slivers of freshly grated Parmesan, but I’ll skip that most of the time.
As far as the health benefits of Artichokes I could wax endlessly and poetically about this. I call them female friendly Veggies as they are filled with nutrients that are highly beneficial to women like foliate and magnesium. Of course we can all benefit from these nutrients but women require some extra. They are loaded antioxidants and vitamin C. It is the fiber content that makes them so special in the nutrient world. Americans are somewhat obsessed with fiber – and understandably so as the average diet tends to shy away from fiber. I have noticed since my time in France, that the French lack fiber due to the high protein and low Vegetable balance in their diet. So I’m encouraging everyone across the pond to embrace the Artichoke this season.