April is poetry month, and what better way to celebrate than with a poem from one of my favorite poets singing praises to one of my favorite vegetables, artichokes!
Hey, even my dog, Tashi loves artichokes as you can see.
These are the last lines from “Ode to the Artichoke” by the incomparable poet, Pablo Neruda:
For the final act
its delicious flavor,
plucking it leaf by leaf,
the peacable dough
that lies at its green heart.
(Except from Odes to Common Things by Neruda)
Neruda obviously loved this rather menacing- looking, spiky vegetable. I wonder if he knew all the amazing health benefits of the cynara scolymus, or that he was simply enamored of its leaves that contain a little pouch of sweet starchy meat at the base, or perhaps he fell head over heels over the delicately nutty and floral flavor of the heart once it was revealed? Most likely, he knew that it was an aphrodisiac! Well, whatever the reasons, I am glad that he wrote an ode to one of my (and my fluffy white dog’s) favorite foods.
Artichokes: Health Benefits
- helps to lower triglycerides
- contains fiber, as well as potassium, iron, calcium, and phosphorus
- lowers blood sugar levels for those who are worried about hypoglycemia.
- improves skin tone by helping to remove excess water and toxins from the body.
- the carbohydrate portion contains inulin, an oligosaccharide (long chain sugar molecule) that feeds the good bacteria in our colon ,or large intestine.
- because it improves bile quality, artichokes help us to digest and absorb fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, as well as essential fatty acids such as Omega-3 and Omega-6.
Easy Way to Enjoy Artichokes
Here’s a super easy way to prepare an artichoke. Actually, I usually cook 3 or 4 at a time.
Simply place a steaming tray in a pot with about 2″ of water and steam with a cover on for about 30 minutes or more.
The artichokes are done when the heart is cooked through. You can test by piercing from the bottom with a small knife. The leaves will also pull away easily.
(Be sure to not let the water go dry under the steaming tray.)
I love to dip the leaves and hearts in a simple and elegant mixture of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and sea salt.
Here’s how to enjoy the leaves: Grab the tip of the leaf, dip it in the olive oil mixture, melted butter, or “as is” and scrape the lower part of the leaf off into your mouth with your teeth.
(Just look at the picture of my dog for reference.)
Once you have eaten the leaves, scrape the furry silky “beard”, or thistle from the heart with a spoon and get ready to fall in love with the heart of this vegetable!
Fascinating Trivia on the Artichoke
- Nearly all of the artichokes grown commercially in the United States are grown in California.
- Marilyn Monroe was the first official California Artichoke Queen in 1949.
- During the 16th century, women were forbidden to eat artichokes. The fairer sex was denied because it was considered to be an aphrodisiac that only men could enjoy.
- The Moors of N. Africa introduced the artichoke (“al”quarshuf” in Arabic) to Spain around 800 A.D. by cultivating them in Granada.
For Love of Food & Friends,
Roehl, Evelyn. Whole Food Facts: The Complete Reference Guide
Rochester, Healing Art Press, 1996.
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