The Dinette Teller – 21. All you need to know about Artichokes

Artichokes are delicious and full of nutrients, vitamins and mineral salts. The season is nearly over as the best period to find fresh artichokes runs from February to May.

Artichokes Field

But don’t despair! You can always find the best quality preserved artichokes in our store, our traditional recipe captures the delicate flavour of a Mediterranean spring to give a boost of taste to your recipes throughout the whole year! Try our Artichokes Patè, the Grandmother’s Recipe Artichokes or the Whole Grilled Artichokes!

Here is all you need to know about artichokes: History, varieties, nutritional values and anecdotes of this versatile vegetable!

History of the artichokes

A vegetable that looks like a flower with a very ancient history. It was already known amongst Egyptians, Greeks and Romans as a wild vegetable.  When Islam diffused into north Africa the Arabs introduced artichokes into the Mediterranean Europe, especially Spain.

Arabs depict artichokes

In fact, the Italian word for “artichoke” is “carciofo”, which is meant to derive from the Arab “kharshuff” and the Spanish “alcachofa”. During the Middle Ages, Sicily was the first Italian spot for artichokes harvesting and in the following centuries, this vegetable gradually conquered the whole of Italy. Nowadays, Italy has become one of the biggest artichoke traders worldwide.

Italian artichokes plantations

The biggest Italian plantations can be found in Puglia, Lazio, Campania, Sicily and Tuscany. Each area uses different methods and recipes.

ARTICHOKES VARIETIES

Italy has become a major world producer with an average production of more than 500.000 tonnes and is cultivated on about 47.000 hectares.

There are many different variates of artichokes but the can be divided into two main categories:

  • Fall varieties: common in the Southern part of Italy, where the season starts towards the end of October and finishing at the end of May. A great part of this harvest is dedicated to canning and preserving. Artichokes suppliers use traditional recipes and technics that has been passed on through generations. For that reason, this area is well known for producing marinated artichokes of the highest quality.
  • Spring varieties: more frequent in the central and northern part of Italy, the season starts is February and continue until the end of May. These type of artichokes are usually sold fresh. There is a huge variety of delicious recipes that variate depending on the region where they are consumed.

Spring varieties

There are more than 90 varieties of artichokes in Italy, amongst those the most famous varieties are:

  • Sardinien Spinoso: tapered and flavourful.
  • Violetto of Tuscany: with a unique violet colour, better if cooked.
  • Romano: typical of Rome, rounder and sweeter in taste.
  • Violetto of Sicily: the most common in the South of Italy, suitable to be eaten either fresh or cooked.

The most renowned varieties are the “Tondo from Paestum”, the “Mammola Romanesca” and the “Sardinien Spinoso”. All of them are recognised as protected species and are considered to be of the highest quality.

When you purchase your fresh artichokes, make sure that the stem is hard and straight, with a well-closed tip and dark green-violet, fleshy and crunchy leaves.

Fresh from the veggies stall

NUTRITIONAL VALUES

The artichokes are well known for their high sensory quality.

They are rich in Iron, mineral salts (calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium) and vitamins (A, B1, B2, C, PP). While they are also very low in calories.

Artichokes contain the principle “cynarine“, which is deemed responsible for the bitter taste but also for the beneficial action on the diuresis and the regularity of the bowel.

Cynarine

As a consequence, this amazing vegetable provides many benefits:

  • CHOLESTEROL: artichokes reduce triglycerides and LDL-cholesterol (the bad one), while they increase the HDL-cholesterol (the good one);
  • DIABETES: thanks to the high contribution in fibres;
  • HYPERTENSION: thanks to the contribution in potassium;
  • OVERWEIGHT: due to the satiety feeling and the laxative effect;
  • CELLULITIS: thanks to the diuresis properties
  • LIVER FUNCTION: artichokes are great liver protectors

Several health benefits!

Artichokes are also good for the health of our skin. They have proven to have positive effects in toning up and revitalising the skin.For that reason, they are also used in many cosmetics.

Artichokes are good for the health of our skin.

LET’S COOK

The edible part of the plant is the flower but the first centimetres of the stem are also good. It is better to remove the more external leaves because the most tender part is the central area.

However, the most external and bitter leaves can be used to make a broth.  You can just boil it in not salted water. to obtain an infusion that provides all the beneficial properties of the artichokes. Then, you can reuse the scented water, to enrich the flavour of a soup or a risotto.

Use the scented water to enrich the flavour of other recipes

There are so many ways to eat and cook artichokes. In Italy, one of the most famous it to eat it fresh, dipping the leaves in a mixture of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, lemon and salt. This is called “Pinzimonio”.

Pinzimonio Artichokes

Alternatively, you can add it to your pasta or rice or use it as a side dish. It is also delicious just cooked in the pan, deep-fried or boiled. Artichokes can also be baked in the oven with other vegetables or filled with mince meat.

Stuffed artichokes

In summary, artichokes can be found fresh from February to May. Nevertheless, wonderful recipes and technics have been passed through the generations of Italian producers and this product can now be enjoyed all year round!

Taste with Gusto if proud to be a supplier of a collection of the most delicious preserved artichokes available in Italy:

  • Artichokes Patè: delicate and dainty flavour, it is perfect for many recipes. Try it warm to toss your pasta, or to add a touch of flavour in your sandwich and toasted bread. You can use it to give a boost of taste to your meat of white fish. Delicious in cold rice salads Perfect for brunches, snacks and appetisers.
  • Grandmother’s Recipe Artichokes: The traditional family recipe, freshly prepared. It has a natural and fresh aroma with a slightly spicy flavour and unique crunchiness! Ideal as a side dish and It also goes perfectly with barbeques!

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