Heart of the matter: Six things you didn't know about artichokes

Artichokes are on the menu this season. — IStock pic via ETX Studio
Artichokes are on the menu this season. — IStock pic via ETX Studio

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PARIS, May 4 — Fresh, tasty and sometimes used as a secret code name by the CIA, the globe artichoke is making its way back onto the menu this spring.

Here are six things you might not know about this often misunderstood vegetable.

With their unusual appearance, globe artichokes — sometimes known as French artichokes or green artichokes — may seem intimidating for kitchen novices.

Preparing them can feel like a technical challenge, but their succulent flavor makes it all worthwhile.

And as April rolls into May, this vegetable is coming back onto the menu, whether braised like they do in Southern France, fried like they do in Italy or stuffed like they do in Turkey.

The artichoke offers a variety of flavours, often evoking the Mediterranean, from where it originates.

This vegetable also has plenty of health benefits, as a source of vitamin B9, potassium, copper, iron, magnesium and manganese. And those aren’t the artichoke’s only secrets...

Edible thistles

The globe artichoke belongs to the thistle family. In fact, the artichoke’s fuzzy inner section resembles the spikes of a thistle. But, unlike other varieties, the artichoke has been domesticated and cultivated to give rise to the edible plant we know today.

Long stalks

Contrary to popular belief, the globe artichoke doesn’t grow on the ground. In fact, the edible part of the plant is its flower buds. These grow at the end of long stalks, which can sometimes grow two metres tall.

Fuzzy hair

The fuzzy part inside the artichoke flower bud — which looks like a little ball of hair — is what’s known as the choke. Don’t forget to remove this part before you cook them.

French festivities

Since 2018, the Artichoke Association of Montpellier, France, has been celebrating the vegetable with its own festival in October, marking the end of the season. 

Light as a feather

Foodies rejoice! This perennial plant is relatively low in calories, with just 33 Kcal per 100g.

A vegetable of choice for the CIA

This vegetable even lent its name to the CIA’s “Project Artichoke.” Among other things, this programme of experiments saw human subjects drugged with LSD to test interrogation methods. The project started in 1951 and ran for 12 years. — ETX Studio

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