Artichoke

Botanical Name: Cynara Scolymus
Family: N.O. Compositae

The Globe Artichoke (Cynara scolymus) 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 50–80 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 inedible immature florets in the center of the bud are called the “choke.”

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A globe artichoke is a partially edible perennial thistle originating in southern Europe around the Mediterranean.

Artichoke may also refer to:

Jerusalem artichoke, a species of sunflower
Chinese artichoke, a species of woundwort
Project ARTICHOKE, a CIA operation
PH Artichoke, a designer Light fixture

Artichoke, Cardoon

Cultivation:
Globe Artichokes were first cultivated at Naples around the middle of the 9th century, and are said to have been introduced to France by Catherine de’ Medici, Dutch introduced artichokes to England, where they were growing in Henry VIII’s garden at Newhall in 1530. They were introduced to the United States in the 19th century, to Louisiana by French immigrants and to California by Spanish immigrants. The name has originated from ardi shauki , which is Arabic for ground-thorn, through the Italian, articiocco.

An artichoke flower.Today, the Globe Artichoke cultivation is concentrated in the contries bordering the Mediterranean basin. The main producers are Italy, Spain, and France. In the United States, California provides nearly 100% of the U.S. crop, and approximately 80 percent of that is grown in Monterey County; there, Castroville proclaims itself to be “The Artichoke Center of the World”. The cultivar ‘Green Globe‘ is virtually the only kind grown commercially in the U.S.

Artichokes can be produced from seeds or from perennials. Perennials produce the edible flower only during the second and subsequent year, while varieties from seeds can be annual. Commercial culture is limited to warm areas in USDA hardiness zone 7 and above. It requires good soil, regular watering and feeding plus frost protection in winter. Rooted suckers can be planted each year so that mature specimens can be disposed of after a few years, as each individual plant only lives a few years. 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.

When harvesting, if they are cut from the ground so as to leave an inch or two of stem, artichokes possess good keeping qualities, frequently remaining quite fresh for two weeks or longer under average retail conditions.

The recently introduced hybrid cultivar ‘Imperial Star’ has been bred to produce in the first year without such measures. An even newer cultivar, ‘Northern Star’, is said to be able to overwinter in more northerly climates, and readily survive sub-zero temperatures. A second generation of new hybrid cultivars were bred during the last decade, much more homogeneous and stable than the former and more suitable for professional growers.

Apart from food use, 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 flowerheads.

Varieties
Traditionally, globe artichoke has been grown by vegetative propagation of suckers, although seed planted cultivars has been introduced in the latest years.

Traditional cultivars (Vegetative multiplication):
Green color, large size: Camus de Bretagne, Castel, Blanc Hyerois (France), Green globe (USA).
Green color, medium size: Blanca de Tudela (Spain), Argentina, Española (Chile), Blanc d’Oran (Algeria), Sakiz, Bayrampsha (Turkey).
Purple color, large size: Romanesco, C3 (Italy).
Purple color, medium size: Violet de Provence (France), Brindisino, Catanese (Italy), Violet d’Algerie (Algeria), Baladi (Egypt).
Spined: Spinoso sardo (Italy), Criolla (Peru).
Varieties multipled by seeds:

Common Uses:

Cooking
Whole Globe Artichokes are prepared for cooking by removing all but 5–10 mm or so of the stem, and (optionally) cutting away about a quarter of each scale with scissors. This removes the thorns that can interfere with handling the leaves when eating. Then, the artichoke is boiled or steamed until tender, about 15–45 minutes. If boiling, salt can be added to the water, if desired. It may be preferable not to cover the pot while the artichokes are boiled, so that the acids will boil out into the air. Covered artichokes can turn brown due to the acids and chlorophyll oxidation.

The leaves are often removed and eaten one at a time, sometimes dipped in butter, mayonnaise, aioli, or other sauces.


Tea

Artichokes can also be made into an herbal tea; artichoke tea is produced as a commercial product in the Dalat region of Vietnam.photo.

Liquor
Artichoke is the primary flavor of the Italian liquor Cynar.

Medicinal Action & Uses:Artichoke leaves contain a wide number of active constituents, including cynarin,1,3 dicaffeoylquinic acid, 3-caffeoylquinic acid, and scolymoside. The choleretic (bile stimulating) action of the plant has been well documented.In an un controll clinical trial it is observed that 320 -640 mg of stadardized artichoke extract taken three times per day can reduce nausea,abdominal pain, constipation,and flatulence .

The standard extract has been used to treat high cholesterol and triglycerides.

Studies have shown that blood cholesterol levels dropped after eating artichoke.  An anticholesterol drug called cynara is derived from this plant.  In 1940, a study in Japan showed that artichoke not only reduced cholesterol but it also increased bile production by the liver and worked as a good diuretic.  This make artichoke useful for gallbladder problems, nausea, indigestion, and abdominal distension.     It has been found that globe artichoke contains the extract cymarin, which is similar to silymarin.  Researchers discovered that this extract promotes liver regeneration and causes hyperaemia.  It was also found that an artichoke extract caused dyspeptic symptoms to disappear.  The researchers interpreted the reduction in cholinesterase levels to mean that the extract effected fatty degeneration of the liver.  In 1969 a team of French researchers patented an artichoke extract as a treatment for kidney and liver ailments.   Although the leaves are particularly effective, all parts of the plant are bitter.  A Mediterranean home recipe uses fresh artichoke leaf juice mixed with wine or water as a liver tonic.  It is also taken during the early stages of late-onset diabetes.  It is a good food for diabetics, since it significantly lowers blood sugar.  In France it has been used to treat rheumatic conditions.

Ethnomedical Uses
Dried or fresh leaves and/or stems of Cynara are used as a choleretic (to increase bile production), to treat gallstones, and as a tonic for convalescence.

Cynarin is the principal active constituent in Cynara; research in 2005 found that cynarin causes an increase in bile flow.

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Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider

Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artichoke

http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/a/artic066.html

http://www.prevention.com/cda/vendorarticle/artichoke/HN2038002/health/herb.

http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_AB.htm

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