Artichoke is one of the favorite winter season edible flower buds. Known as “Ankinara” in Greek, its use as a vegetable is well known to the ancient Greeks and Romans who advocated it for its medicinal and health benefiting qualities. Botanically, it belongs to the thistle family (Asteraceae), in the genus: Cynara. Scientific name: Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus.
Globe artichoke grows up to 1.5-2 m tall, with arching, deeply lobed, silvery-green leaves about 0.5 m long. If left alone, beautiful light pink, or purple flowers develop forming a large head from the edible buds. The bud is composed of compactly arranged triangular scales in a whorl-fashion around a central “choke.”
Globe artichoke is low in calories and fat; 100 g of this flower bud just carries 47 calories. Nonetheless, it is one of the finest sources of dietary fiber and antioxidants. It provides 5.4 g per 100 g, about 14% of RDA fiber. Dietary-fiber helps control constipation conditions, decreases bad or “LDL” cholesterol levels by binding to it in the intestines and help cut down colon cancer risks by preventing toxic compounds in the food from absorption.
Artichoke contains bitter principles, cynarin, and sesquiterpene-lactones. Scientific studies show that these compounds, not only inhibit cholesterol synthesis but also increase its excretion in the bile, and thus, help overall reduction in the total cholesterol levels in the blood.
Fresh artichoke is an excellent source of vitamin, folic acid; provides about 68 µg per 100 g (17% of recommended daily allowance). Folic acid acts as a co-factor for enzymes involved in the synthesis of DNA. Scientific studies have proven that adequate levels of folates in the diet during the pre-conception period, and during early pregnancy may help prevent neural tube defects in the newborn baby.
Fresh globes also contain moderate amounts of the antioxidant vitamin; vitamin-C (Provides about 20% of recommended levels per 100 g). Regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin-C helps the human body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body.