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Artichokes – a decorative vegetable with a distinctive taste

Maybe you’re one of those people who love the look of artichokes, but don’t trust yourself to get the cooking right. But it’s really not difficult and it’s worth doing, because the taste of fresh artichokes is incomparably better than preserved artichokes from a jar. One way of serving artichokes is as an appetizer with a vinaigrette sauce and baguette. Artichokes also taste good in vegetable mixes, on a tart and as a side dish for meat.

Especially good for diabetics

Nutritionally too, the artichoke has a lot to offer: besides a high content of dietary fiber it contains the carbohydrate inulin, which is particularly suitable for diabetics. In addition, vitamin B1 and minerals such as iron, while the bitter cynarin is thought to promote digestion and fat burning. Artichokes (Cynara scolymus) are clearly members of the thistle family; they’re native to the eastern Mediterranean. As with cauliflower and broccoli, what you’re eating is actually the flower head. This can be green or violet depending on the variety.Firm, slightly oily fish are best for grilling. In addition to salmon and tuna, this means trout, sea bream, sea bass and mackerel are top of the shopping list. The last four have a big advantage in that they are just the right size for grilling whole, held securely in a fish basket above the coals. They are also suitable for gentle cooking by indirect grilling.

Cooking and eating artichokes

First, rinse the artichokes under running water. Screw out the stalk or break it off over the edge of a table, so that the tough inedible stalk fibres are separated from the artichoke itself. Then remove the tough outer leaves and cut off the tips of the remaining leaves. Rub all the cut surfaces with lemon juice to stop them turning brown. Then simmer the artichoke in salted water to which you have added a little lemon juice. Don’t use an aluminum saucepan, because the artichoke will then take on a metallic taste and become discolored. Cook artichokes for 25 to 40 minutes until a leaf comes off easily when you pull it. To eat, pull off individual leaves, dip the lower, fleshy end into a dip, or even just melted butter, and scrape the flesh off with your teeth. The best part is the "heart", which you can cut up and eat with a knife and fork. Unless your artichoke is very young and tender, you’ll have to scrape off the inedible fibers, the hay, with a knife or spoon.

Buy quality

Artichokes are available all year, but taste best from June to November. Make sure you buy quality when shopping. Fresh flower heads feel swollen and firm and lie heavy in the hand. If the outer leaves look discolored and dry, the artichokes have been harvested too long ago. The stalk shouldn’t be dried out either. Wrapped in a damp cloth, fresh artichokes will keep for one to two weeks in your fridge.

 

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.bzfe.de