Artichoke: cooking, recipe and health benefits

Characteristics of the artichoke

  • Source of so-called prebiotic fibers;
  • Rich in antioxidants;
  • Bitter and sweet flavor;
  • Helps regulate cholesterol levels;
  • Stimulates the liver and gallbladder.

 Nutritional and caloric values ​​of artichoke

For a medium boiled, drained artichoke, 120 g:

NutrientsAverage content
Protein3.5 g
Carbohydrates14.3 g
Lipids0.4 g
Dietary fiber4.7 g
Glycemic load: no data available
Antioxidant power: very high

The flesh of the artichoke contains a real cocktail of vitamins and minerals, which gives it a unique profile. Among these essential micronutrients, we can cite: 

  • Copper: the artichoke is an excellent source of copper;
  • Vitamin B9 (folate): artichokes are a good source of vitamin B9;
  • Vitamin K: the artichoke is a good source of vitamin K for women and a source for men;
  • Iron: the artichoke is a good source of iron for men and a source for women
  • Magnesium: the artichoke is a good source of magnesium;
  • Manganese: the artichoke is a good source of manganese for women and a source for men;
  • Vitamin B1: the artichoke is a source of vitamin B1;
  • Vitamin B2: the artichoke is a source of vitamin B2;
  • Vitamin B3: it is a source of vitamin B3;
  • Vitamin B5: it is a source of vitamin B5;
  • Vitamin B6: the artichoke is a source of vitamin B6;
  • Vitamin C: it is a source of vitamin C;
  • Calcium: it is a source of calcium;
  • Phosphorus: it is a source of phosphorus;
  • Potassium: the artichoke is a source of potassium;
  • Zinc: artichokes are a source of zinc.

 The benefits of artichoke

The artichoke is appreciated as much for its leaves as for its refined heart. High source of fiber and many vitamins, it has a strong antioxidant power that would provide many health benefits.

Artichoke and cholesterol levels

There is some evidence that consuming artichoke leaf extracts may be beneficial in treating high cholesterol by lowering blood cholesterol levels. However, more studies will be needed to ensure the safety of artichoke leaf extracts and before they can be recommended for consumption to treat high cholesterol.

A preventive effect on chronic diseases 

Several epidemiological studies have shown that a high consumption of vegetables and fruits decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and other chronic diseases. The presence of antioxidants in vegetables and fruits may play a role in this protection.

Rich in antioxidants 

The edible parts of the artichoke contain a wide variety of antioxidants, such as certain phenolic compounds (chlorogenic acid, narirutin, apigenin-7-rutinoside, cynarin) and anthocyanins (cyanidin, peonidin, delphinidin). Silymarin, another antioxidant in artichoke, may aid in the prevention and potentially specific treatment of cancer.

An animal study has shown that ingesting artichoke puree inhibits the toxicity of a chemical compound that causes genetic damage. This effect could be attributed to the overall antioxidant content of the artichoke. Until now, research has focused on the effects of antioxidants from medicinal extracts of artichoke leaves and less on artichoke consumed as a vegetable.

Inulin, a prebiotic sugar

Artichokes contain inulin, a non-digestible sugar from the fructan family. Inulin is called a prebiotic, that is, it is not digested or absorbed by the small intestine, but fermented by the bacterial flora of the colon. Beneficial bacteria in the gut (eg bifidobacteria) can use inulin to grow and play their role in gut health and the immune system more effectively. These bacteria also contribute to the synthesis or absorption of several nutrients.

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In addition, studies tend to demonstrate a beneficial effect of inulin on the regulation of blood lipids, in particular in hyperlipidemic individuals. Other work indicates that inulin may play a role in blood sugar control. However, more research will be needed, since some data has shown conflicting results.

Finally, studies have shown that inulin may play a role in reducing the risk of colon cancer in humans. And other animal studies suggest that inulin may have a protective effect against breast and intestinal cancer.

An excellent source of fiber

Artichokes are a high source of dietary fiber. With 4.7 g for a medium-sized artichoke, it represents 12% and 19% of the recommended daily fiber intake for men and women aged 19 to 50, respectively. The artichoke contains two types of fibers. In its heart, we find 18% insoluble fiber and 27% soluble fiber. While insoluble fiber is credited with the ability to prevent constipation, soluble fiber may help prevent cardiovascular disease and control type 2 diabetes. In addition, a diet high in a variety of fibers is associated with a lower risk of colon cancer and may help control appetite by making you feel fuller more quickly.

A word from the nutritionist

With less than 70 kcal per 100g, artichoke is one of the foods that are both satiating and low in energy density. For a healthy and digestible meal, we recommend cooking it in water or steam and accompanying it with a light yogurt and herb sauce. On the other hand, fried artichokes are much richer in calories and less digestible, to be consumed in moderation. 

 How to choose the right artichoke?

With its flower-like appearance, the artichoke is a refined and sought-after vegetable. In fact, in addition to being particularly aesthetic, it has a characteristic taste that is both slightly bitter and sweet. In France, it is found on the stalls in spring and early summer, the ideal time to savor it and enhance it in the kitchen. 

Artichoke identity card

  • Family: asteraceae (synonym: composées);
  • Origin: Mediterranean basin;
  • Season: spring; 
  • Color: green or purple;
  • Flavor: slightly bitter and sweet.

Choosing the right artichoke 

The leaves (or bracts) of the artichoke should be soft green (unless it’s purple artichoke), tight together, and brittle to the fingers. If the bracts are open, it is a sign that the artichoke is too ripe, that it is hard and that its hay, inside, will be too abundant. There should be no black spots at the tip or at the base, indicating a lack of freshness. The apple should be firm and heavy.

New artichokes

We occasionally find small artichokes (known as “baby artichokes” or “new artichokes”), which are eaten raw with their tails.

Store the artichokes well

  • Refrigerator: a few days, in a plastic bag. To keep it longer, spray a few drops of water before putting it in the bag that you will close tightly to keep it moist. Or, if it has its tail, place it in a container partially filled with water and store in the refrigerator. Do not wash it until you are ready to cook it;
  • Freezer: thin the artichokes, remove the hay and blanch for 3 minutes in boiling lemon water. Cool them and pat them dry before putting them in a freezer bag.
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 How to prepare the artichoke

In the kitchen, the artichoke allows you to make a multitude of recipes, from the simplest to the most sophisticated. Whether we like it simple or integrated into more sophisticated recipes, its soft and tasty flesh generally appeals to most palates. 

The artichoke made easy

Most often, artichokes are cooked and savored just cooked in water or steamed and served with a simple sauce. Traditionally, we like to accompany it with a homemade mayonnaise, a traditional vinaigrette or an aioli. For a lighter and more digestible version, the artichoke can also be dipped in a sauce made with yogurt, mustard and fresh herbs. 

Cooking the purple artichoke

Purple artichokes, on the other hand, can be eaten raw or cooked. In the raw version, it can simply be stripped of its outer leaves, broken down into thin strips and then marinated in a mixture of lemon juice and olive oil. As a salad, starter or antipasto, it is an original and healthy alternative to more traditional vegetables. Purple artichokes are also delicious just pan-fried in oil, drizzled with lemon juice and generously seasoned with fresh herbs. 

Artichoke hearts for refined recipes

Artichoke hearts are, without a doubt, the most prized and flavorful part of artichoke. Excellent consumed as is, they are also excellent when they are stuffed and then au gratin in the oven. Their mild and sweet taste goes wonderfully with goat cheese, capers or even fish. Artichoke hearts can be purchased fresh, canned, or frozen. They will bring a lot of taste and originality to a pan-fried spring vegetables or to a mixed salad.

 Contraindications and allergies to artichoke

Although excellent for health, artichoke is contraindicated in certain specific cases. Indeed, artichoke is one of the foods that promote bile production and that contain certain sugars that can be poorly digested by people with sensitive intestines. 

Biliary lithiasis

The artichoke is contraindicated in case of obstruction of the bile ducts, a case that is medically called gallstones. Indeed, it has a so-called cholagogue action and stimulates the production of bile by the liver. In the case of gallstones, there are difficulties in the elimination and drainage of the bile. Consumption of artichoke can therefore exacerbate these disorders and worsen the symptoms that go with them.

Irritable bowel syndrome

Artichokes are rich in fiber and so-called fermentable sugars. In some people with sensitive intestines, particularly irritable bowel syndrome, artichoke can cause digestion difficulties. These difficulties are most often reflected in the appearance, after the meal, of bloating, diarrhea and intense digestive pain.

 History and anecdotes

The term “artichoke” appeared in the French language in 1530. It comes from the Lombard articiocco, a deformation of the Italian carciofo, which would have borrowed it from the Arabic al-harsufa.

The artichoke is a vegetable plant whose flower bud (or flower head) is eaten. It belongs to the large asteraceae (or compound) family which includes a multitude of species, many of which are used as food or as medicinal plants: dandelion, lettuce, chicory, burdock, knapweed, salsify, scorsonere, tansy, mugwort, thistle -Marie, yarrow, chamomile, arnica, etc.

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Mediterranean origins 

Originally from the Mediterranean basin, the species C. cardunculus would have been brought to Egypt 2000 or 2500 years ago, to then spread westward. The artichoke forms, within this species, a subgroup which is unknown in the wild. Its ancestor, the cardoon of the fields, grows spontaneously throughout the Mediterranean basin as well as in various places of the globe, where it is naturalized. The Latin name of this species recalls its kinship with the thistle, whose leaves and flowers have been consumed for a long time. The Greeks and Romans attributed to thistles many medicinal properties and held them in very high regard, not hesitating to pay large sums to obtain them.

The artichoke as such was not mentioned for the first time until 1400 in Naples, where it was possibly selected. From Italy, it will be introduced into France in 1533 by Catherine de Medici. Popular in this country as well as in Spain and their respective colonies, it did not arouse much interest among the English or, subsequently, among the Americans. Even today, the only states where its culture matters are Louisiana, founded by the French, and California, founded by the Spaniards.

Since the 16th century, two types of artichoke have been known. They are classified according to the conical or round shape of their flower bud, and have given rise to numerous sub-groups, known in Europe under various regional names: gros camus de Bretagne, gros vert de Laon (also known as “cat’s head” ), green from Provence, prickly or sarda, macau, white from Hyères, violet from Provence, Venice or Tuscany, pepper …

A little gardening

Until recently, it was virtually impossible to grow artichokes in the northern climates of Quebec. On the one hand, this perennial plant does not tolerate the cold that we know, on the other hand it had to be reproduced from cuttings taken from previous crops.

However, in the last few decades, varieties have been developed that can be grown from seed, which partly circumvents the problem. On the other hand, you should know that the artichoke requires a lot of space for its full growth and therefore does not lend itself well to small allotment gardens.

In addition, it requires relatively cool temperatures during its growth period, the heat waves being particularly harmful (for this reason, in many places in the world where the climate lends itself to it, it is cultivated in winter to harvest it. in spring). It requires good fertilization as well as an abundance of water in case of drought.

References :

  • Kelly M, Starr Ranch Sanctuary Artichoke Conference. CalEPPC (California ExoticPest Plant Control) News. Flight. 6 number 3, 1998. [Accessed November 19, 2010]
  • Kiple Denneth F, Ornelas Kriemhild Coneè (Dir.) The Cambridge World History of Food, Cambridge University Press, Great Britain, 2000.
  • The Visual Food Encyclopedia. Quebec America, Montreal, 1996, 688p.
  • Mansfeld’s World Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Crop. Cynara cardunculus. [Accessed November 19, 2010]
  • Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File 2010. [Accessed June 20, 2011].
  • Sonnante G., De Paolis A., Pignone D. Relationships among artichoke cultivars and some related wild taxa based on AFLP markers. Plant Genetic Resources: 
  • Characterization and Utilization (2003), 1: 125-133 Cambridge University Press [Accessed November 19, 2010]