Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Heart of the Artichoke


One of my favorite foods is the artichoke, my family usually steams it and then eats the tender parts of the leaf, dipping them in olive oil, salt, and pepper.  The leafs of the artichoke are actually modified leafs called bracts, which I found very interesting.  Here in Italy, it is typical to cook artichokes into many of the dishes.  We had an amazing dish while in Verona of risotto with artichoke hearts.  In a small side street of Venice, I saw an inviting shop with fresh fruits and plants.  I stopped to look and saw artichoke hearts soaking in water outside the shop. It is really neat to be able to not only learn about the typical agricultural crops of Italy and to eat them, but also to see how they are literally ingrained into the lives of the people that live here.  Coming back to America, I would love to be more adventurous in my cooking and try and integrate artichokes into more of my meals other than normal steamed artichoke leaves and spinach artichoke dip.  Some of my family friends are even trying to grow artichoke plants in Texas.  The artichoke is in the daisy family and the edible part that is harvested is actually the bud.  After the bud flowers, the flower is a shocking blue and is great to use in decorative arrangements.

Originating in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, the artichoke has spread throughout the world.  In America, California is the leading producer of artichokes and Castroville, California calls itself the “Artichoke Center of the World.”  The first Artichoke queen in Castroville was Norma Jean.  Norma Jean would go on to change her name and become the famous Marilyn Monroe.  The artichoke is a perennial thistle, so it will come back each year after planting.  The artichoke has to be cooked before eaten, but is a rich source of dietary fibers, vitamins, and antioxidants.  There is also a famous Italian liqueur called Cynar that is made from artichokes.  I personally cannot say that I have tried it, but when in Rome…

-Hannah Dressen

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