Sunday, March 22, 2009

Green Globe Artichoke

The Globe Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) is a perennial thistle originating in southern Europe around the Mediterranean. It grows to 1.5-2 m tall, with arching, deeply lobed, silvery glaucous-green leaves 50–82 cm long. The flowers develop in a large head from an edible bud about 8–15 cm diameter with numerous triangular scales; the individual florets are purple. The edible portion of the buds consists primarily of the fleshy lower portions of the involucral bracts and the base, known as the "heart"; the mass of immature florets in the center of the bud is called the "choke". The plant normally produce the edible flower only during the second and subsequent years. The globe artichoke is also an attractive plant for its bright floral display, sometimes grown in herbaceous borders for its bold foliage and large purple flower heads.

How to grow
Globe artichokes grow best in a warm climate and most varieties need at least 100 frost-free days to produce their edible flower buds. It requires good soil, regular watering and feeding plus frost protection in winter. Sow seeds one inch deep, spaced 5-6 inches apart. Rows should be spaced 5-6 feet apart. Thin plants to two 2/12 feet apart. The peak season for artichoke harvesting is the spring, but they continue to be harvested throughout the summer, with another peak period in mid autumn. USDA zone is 6 to 7.

Maturity info
Approximately 90 to 100 days. But remember, most Artichoke do not produce buds the first year.

Harvest info
When harvesting, they are cut from the plant so as to leave an inch or two of stem. the large thistle-like heads which develop should be cut just before they open. Cut the main head, known as the king head, first. Secondary growths will then develop, each of which will produce a tender flower head. These are cut when they are the size of a large hen's egg. For better flavour, cut no more than 1 hour before you intend to cook them.

Nutrition info
Artichokes are a good source of potassium and one large artichoke contains 25 percent of the RDA for folacin.

Cooking info
The globe artichoke can be broiled, steamed, roasted, stuffed and deep fried. Artichoke is the primary flavor of the Italian liqueur Cynar. Artichokes can also be made into an herbal tea and juices.

Health benefit
The medical properties of globe artichoke stimulates the metabolization of the cholesterol in the liver; it is diuretic, tonic, depurative, hypoglycaemic. artichoke preparations may be used for treating cardio-vascular, liver, kidney disorders, eczemas, diabetes, podagra, hemorrhoids and for regenerating hepatic cells.

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