Thursday, March 19, 2009

Consider The Artichoke

While cruising the produce aisle of your favorite grocery store, have you ever passed by a display of artichokes and spontaneously reached out and grabbed one? Do you remember what happened? Yikes, right? One of the little thorns at the tips of this odd-looking vegetable may (or may not—maybe it only wanted to attack me!) have pricked you. This more than likely caused you to toss the little bugger back onto the pile of like little buggers and search out a safer, friendlier veggie, like, say, a serene tomato or mundane carrot. And it’s not just the fact that fondling (yes, I said fondle) this strange veggie may cause you harm, but look at the thing! It looks prehistoric! What with its fronds and thistle, its military green armor covering it. If you cross your eyes and look at it from afar, it could pass for a hand grenade. Eat it? I’m taking cover and running away from it!

But don’t judge this book by its cover, or, this veggie by its thorny thistle. Once you get past the look, the pain, and the labor of preparing this guy, it is well worth it. And let’s clear something up right now: This tasty treat is actually a flower. And the part of the artichoke that we eat is actually the plant’s flower bud.

Being a Californian, this time of year I start to see fresh, California-grown artichokes displayed in the produce aisle. Peak picking times are from March through May. And speaking of California, here are some:

CALIFORNIA ARTICHOKE FACTS:

* Nearly 100% of all artichokes are commercially grown in the Golden State
* Approximately 75% of these are grown in Monterey County
* Artichoke is considered the “Official vegetable of Monterey”
* The heart of the industry is located in Castroville, who proclaim that they are the “artichoke center of the world!”
(it says so right on the sign when you enter downtown)
* Every year the artichoke is celebrated with a huge festival in Castroville
* Cooler summers and frost-free winters of the California central coast, with the occasional fog keeping the air moist, are ideal growing conditions for artichokes

But how does one penetrate that armor-plated defense to get to all that goodness inside? I have produced this video to help those willing to venture forth and attack, ahem, I mean, enjoy an artichoke:

HOW TO...EAT AN ARTICHOKE



SOME MORE ARTICHOKE FUN FACTS YOU SHOULD KNOW:

* a member of the thistle group of the sunflower family
* if left to flower, the bud (the part that we see in the grocery) will blossom up to 7 inches and produce a pretty violet flower
* picked by hand and very labor-intensive using a special artichoke knife, a full basket carried by a field worker can weigh 80 pounds
* mentioned in literature as far back as 77 AD
* Spanish settlers brought artichokes to California in the 1600’s
* Marilyn Monroe was once named Artichoke Queen in Castroville, back in 1948

Besides tasting great, artichokes are high in fiber (6g) and have a decent amount of protein (4g). They are also low in calories (hold the butter!) and are a good source of potassium, vitamin C, folate, and magnesium. And speaking of butter…what is the best way to prepare them?

The most common way to eat an artichoke is to pull off the leaves and dip them into either butter or mayonnaise. I like to stay away from those fatty dairy dips and whipped up a tasty sauce made from spicy brown mustard, Dijon mustard, and olive oil. Try it, it may surprise you and it is vegan-friendly.

I absolutely love marinated artichoke hearts, would eat them all day if I could, but don’t because of the sodium. But I do add them to salads and sandwiches. In fact, my latest Veg Out With Mike Video has artichoke hearts in it. Take a look:



For some excellent artichoke recipes and for more information about artichokes, I suggest visiting these websites that I used for research for this post:

Castroville Artichoke Festival Recipes
Gourmet Sleuth
Artichokes.org

I love artichokes. I try to incorporate them into my diet as often as I can. They are loaded with healthy fiber and vegetable protein, and they taste amazing. Okay, you may get pricked and have to put aside some time to prepare them, but they are well worth the effort.

The next time you're cruising your produce aisle, I hope you consider the artichoke. I know I'm going to.


peace,

Mike

37 comments:

Cascia said...

I love artichokes. We grew them last year but I haven't planted one in the garden this year yet.

Your mustard dip recipe sounds delicious and a lot healthier than mayo (what I usually dip artichokes in).

Thank you for sharing this wonderful information!

heidi said...

Alright, alright I am going to buy some artichokes tomorrow. I love mustard so I will give it a shot.

doi said...

i have never seen an artichoke in my life. Before, when I was into reading novels and pocketbooks, i thought artichokes are small chickens. hahaha. i wonder how that vegetable tastes... Mike, can you tell me the nearest vegetable that you can think of that tastes like an artichoke? am curious bout this vegie.

Evelyn Lim said...

I'm not sure if I have ever seen one in a supermarket around here. I doubt I have eaten one too!

HalfCrazy said...

I haven't seen these things before LOL. It looks weird and scary!

Maria said...

Ok I get your point, I will include artichokes in my diet. :d Lol

Great info!

Jackie said...

Thanks for visit :)

Rarely see fresh artichokes in the shops so I normally eat them when at a restaurant. I also do eat the Italian bottled artichoke heats quite often....great on a vegan pizza. Both are really tasty.

Thanks for the info though as if I find them I will know how to prepare them.

LisaNewton said...

I don't really like artichokes, unless they are prepared with spinach. Now, that's good.

I'll have to try to visit Monterey to see all the artichokes. Yupp, I feel a new blog post coming on...........:)

Fruitfulvine2 said...

They're definitely not available around here and when I lived in New Orleans I was not interested in strange things(LOL!) so if it was there I would pass it right up. I guess next time I'm on the mainland I might look it up and try it.

Sadie said...

Artichokes are one of my favorite veggies! I'm going to try your mustard idea!

Jennifer said...

Oh thank you! I've never known what to do with a fresh artichoke. I'm going to buy some when I go to the grocery store next. Thanks! I just found your blog today, I really like it!

Mike Foster said...

cascia: wow, I'd like to try growing them...and the mustard recipe just evolved and tasted better than I had hoped for

heidi: they are at their peak, and have lots of fiber

doi: i'm amazed you've never seen one before...oh, well, i'd say they taste like, uh,...chicken?

evelyn: try it, you'll like it!

halfcrazy: weird, scary, and tasty...

maria: go for it!

jackie: marinated artichoke hearts on top of a pizza beats pinapple and bacon any time!

lisa: i will have to try them with spinach...and maybe i'll see ya at the festival this year!

fruitfulvine2: i always like to try new things in the produce aisle...seldom does it disappoint...

sadie: yea, another artichoke lover!! and the mustard dip not only tastes amazing, it is fat free...



peace,

mike

Mike Foster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie said...

Hi Mike!!

I love your blog on artichokes! Check out oceanmist.com.They have an Artichoke Aficionado Club that you can subscribe to...and it's free! When you subscribe, you automatically are entered into a weekly drawing for a case of artichokes! The club has great recipes too!

Cheers!


Stephanie

Perspective Shift Chris said...

HAHAHA, wow, your blog is great! :) Although, I can't say I actually eat the dreaded Artichoke... But at least I know how to now! Keep up the good work Mike. I'll definitely be sure to check back and see what else you have to say. I also appreciate the reciprocation!

kRiZ cPEc said...

artichokes...did you mention this in your super food list? Anyway, I don't see one around here in HK yet. If they would come in pre-processed, I would try it. :)

Sandi said...

I think the only time I ate an artichoke like that was in high school foods class and it was dipped in butter. I remember I rather liked it a lot! haha

Mike Foster said...

jennifer: they look intimidating but aren't that difficult to handle...worth it

stephanie: gotta check out that club...maybe i'll win a free case?

perspective shift chris: glad you enjoyed your visit...

kriz: marinated artichoke hearts are excellent

sandi: most things dipped in butter are tasty



peace,

mike

Andrea said...

I've only had artichokes once. That was probably enough for me, but I may try them once more, just to be sure. I seem to have a thing with 'A' veggies and fruits - can't think of one that I particularly like. Maybe it's some sort of mental block...

Sagan said...

Interesting! I don't know if I've ever had an artichoke before. I gotta try them though. Everyone seems to be raving about them. Thanks for so much information!

Dori said...

Thanks for the tips on how to eat an artichoke. They've always intrigued me but I never know how best to enjoy them. Love your videos Mike :)

Redkathy said...

My grandma used to marinade them with a bit of roasted hot red pepper. They were so good... I wish I had that recipe!

HealthNutWannabeDad said...

Mike, help my memory. Didn't you mention the Artichoke Festival in a previous post awhile back?

By the way, the greener a vegetable, the more nutrition is in it. That's why artichokes are so good for ya.

Have a great day!

Paul

Eat Well. Live Well.
ER BurnTheFat.com
PurpleGreenPops.com

Barry said...

I have just learned I have an esophageal ulcer and have trouble swallowing. So no spicy food, no almonds and no artichokes for me while I flail around trying to discover what I can eat.

Strangely the WV for this post is "straw"!

Mike Foster said...

andrea: apple? avocado? asparagus? maybe you need an...advil?

sagan: i bet you've had one, maybe just didn't know ya did...

dori: thanks, i dig your site too...

redkathy: that does sound good...gonna try it...

paul the healthnut: that was for the asparagus festival in stockton; this if another one. living here in the central valley, the land of agriculture, there are a lot of food fests...like the garlic festival in gilroy...

barry: sorry to hear about your ulcer, hope it gets better...thanks for dropping by...


peace,

mike

Faisal Admar said...

I never eat artichoke before. Instead of eating that way, can we cook with something as veggie? (I know it's a flower)

Dwacon® said...

They might choke Artie... but they won't choke me!

Mike Foster said...

faisal: sure, cook it or mix it with your favorite veg...broccoli? peas? carrots?

dwacon: think i heard that one on "The Little Rascals"


peace,

mike

Mark Salinas said...

I love, love artichokes! Loads of useful information! Thanks!

Sandee (Comedy +) said...

I love artichokes. One of my favorite veggies.

Have a terrific day Mike. :)

DebbieDana said...

I haven't tried artichokes when I was still in the Philippines, but when I got here in the states and my husband introduced it to me, I said, why not try it although I was hesitant at first. It's one of my husband's favorites and when I finally tasted it, it wasn't that bad like I thought...Actually, I liked the taste, it's also very healthy.

Mike Foster said...

mark: hey, an artichoke lover! nice to see ya again...

sandee: you too! thanks for dropping by...

debbiedana: it tastes better than it looks, that's for sure...



peace,

mike

SpinDiva said...

one of my favorite vegetables and I prefer this one really fresh so I wait until the season is right. Thanks for the facts and the nutritional information. As always, great post.

Robin Easton said...

Okay, okay I couldn't stay away. I admit it. LOL!!!

This is great mike. I started laughing out loud watching you sharpen that knife. What a way to open a video. You had my attention. And I am going to HAVE to try these fresh artichokes. They look fabulous. It also looked a blast just preparing them. Peace and hugs, Robin :) :)

Mike Foster said...

spin diva: so true, this time of year they are getting really fresh...and delicious

robin: thanks for dropping by (even though you said you were cutting back)...just glad i didn't cut myself with that knife...it was sharp!


peace,

mike

Leo (Healthy Tips For A Healthy Lifestyle) said...

Interesting mix there, mustard and olive oil. Will sure try it! Artichoke is Alright :)

Christina Houge said...

I'm going to attempt to make this tonight! I have never made artichokes before! Thanks for the video!