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Whole Gourmet Natural Cooking

Alison Anton's Natural Cooking Blog offers healthy recipes, inspirational food articles and culinary advice for the natural chef, and features dessert recipes from her upcoming cookbook, Desserts for Every Body.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Art of the Choke

It's no wonder Marilyn Monroe won the first official title of California Artichoke Queen in 1949. Apparently, artichokes are considered an aphrodisiac, and in the 16th century women were even banned from eating these indulgent delicacies due to their sexual inference. I guess an artichoke a day won't keep the men away!

Artichokes are one of the oldest foods known to humans. Its Italian and Sicilian origins date back to 371-287 B.C., and were brought over to America by French immigrants when they settled in the Louisiana Territory in the early 1800's. Later that century, artichokes were established in the Monterrey Bay area by the Spaniards. Today, nearly one hundred percent of the country's entire artichoke crop is cultivated in this mid-coastal region of California.

The plant is an edible thistle - the part that we eat is actually the plant's flower bud. If allowed to flower, the blossoms of the artichoke measure up to seven inches in diameter and are a spectacular violet-blue. Most people haven't gotten a chance to see this beautiful showy blossom because the plant is cut for consumption rather than used for decoration. But it's sure worth the show!

You can purchase artichokes year round, but most organic farms will honor their peak season from March-May. Select globes that are deep green, with a tight leaf formation, and those that feel heavy for their size. Artichokes can be steamed, boiled, stuffed and baked, marinated, sauteed, roasted or fried.

So, if we see all you ladies gathering around the artichoke stand this season, we'll know what you're up to...

Marinated Baby Artichokes
Cream of Artichoke Soup


At 9:17 PM , Blogger iportion said...

I don't think I've cooked with atichokes much.
They do sound like a fun veggie.

At 10:34 AM , Blogger Alison Anton said...

Yes, they're very fun! They can be a bit time-consuming though. For those who don't want to go through cooking, peeling and digging out the hearts, canned hearts can be used. They will not taste as delicious as the fresh, but better than not having artichokes at all! For cooking, use hearts packaged in water. Save the oil and vinegar ones for fresh salads or Mediterranean sautes.


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