Tuesday, May 22, 2012

ARTICHOKES: The Naked Truth Revealed!



Last month, I posted an in-depth retrospective overview of my personal favorite records from the 1990s entitled "Back to the '90s - Pt. 1 (Long Live Rock)." I prefaced the feature by clearly articulating my disdain for the era — a period that I refer to as the decade of doom, death, destruction and despair. Yet despite my personal anxieties, I felt that many of my readers would get a kick out of an ongoing '90s flashback-type series. However, my girlfriend Michelle (who actually liked the '90s) thought that it would be an epic fail. Hence, I smelled a challenge. It was a simple wager. Had the initial '90s installment totally blown up, we would have enjoyed several posts throughout the summer regarding the music, books, movies, people and events that made the decade memorable. But if it tanked, I promised readers compelling and riveting exposés  on other such fascinating topics as, oh say, artichokes. 
 
My debut '90s post was not an epic fail. However, it did fall short of "blowing up." As a result, (as promised) after considerable research, I'm proud to present to you, my in-depth, behind-the-scenes, undercover report — ARTICHOKES: The Naked Truth Revealed!
 

Abby-normal
I first discovered the artichoke phenomenon during a recent visit to the produce department of my local Walmart store. I quickly was reminded of Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks' 1974 comedy, Young Frankenstein. There's a hilarious and iconic scene in the film in which Igor, the bumbling, hunchbacked, bug-eyed assistant is questioned  by Dr. Frankenstein  regarding  a mix-up during a human brain experiment —  a brain that  Frankenstein had  marked as "abnormal." Oddly, submerged in liquid and preserved in jars, the lab brains depicted in this scene actually resembled some of the artichoke options that I spotted on display at Walmart. My interest was piqued


Thanks to Wikipedia, I got the real lowdown on the artichoke:
 

Mmm...  yummy!
The globe artichoke is a perennial thistle of the genus Cynara  originating in Southern Europe  around the Mediterranean. It grows to 1.4–2 metres (4.6–6.6 ft) tall, with arching, deeply lobed, silvery, glaucous-green leaves 50–82 centimetres (20–32 in) long. The flowers develop in a large head from an edible bud about 8–15 centimetres (3.1–5.9 in) 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 immature florets in the center of the bud is called the "choke" or beard. These are inedible in older larger flowers.
 

A medical experiment? No.
These are artichoke hearts.
And apparently you can eat them!


Cooking
In the US, large globe artichokes are most frequently prepared for cooking by removing all but 5–10 millimetres (0.2–0.4 in) or so of the stem, and (optionally) cutting away about a quarter of each scale with scissors. This removes the thorns on some varieties that can interfere with handling the leaves when eating. Then, the artichoke is boiled or steamed until tender. The core of the stem, which tastes like the artichoke heart, is edible once the stem's fibrous exterior has been removed...


Tea
Artichokes can also be made into an herbal tea. It affords some of the qualities of the whole vegetable, acting as a diuretic and improving liver function. Artichoke tea is produced as a commercial product in the Da Lat region of Vietnam.

Liqueur
Artichoke is the primary flavor of the 33-proof (16.5%-alcohol) Italian liqueur Cynar produced exclusively by the Campari Group. It can be served over ice as an aperitif or as a cocktail mixed with orange juice, especially popular in Switzerland. It is also used to make a 'Cin Cyn', a slightly less-bitter version of the Negroni cocktail, by substituting Cynar in place of Campari.
 
 
Personally, I'm a bigger fan of
their chocolate/peanut butter combo!
Medical Uses
The total antioxidant capacity of artichoke flower heads is one of the highest reported for vegetables. Cynarin, an active chemical constituent in Cynara, causes an increased bile flow. The majority of the cynarin found in artichoke is located in the pulp of the leaves, though dried leaves and stems of artichoke also contain it. It inhibits taste receptors, making water (and other foods and drinks) seem sweet.I look forward to hearing from readers on this one. So feel free to offer comments or share your own related personal stories. There were some interesting books and movies and such from those days that might be fun to revisit — that is, if I'm right about this one. If there's interest, we can milk this goat for some time. However, if Michelle's instincts are on-point and nobody cares about the '90s anymore, well, I guess we can talk about something else. I've recently collected several interesting facts and photos regarding artichokes that might make for a compelling series.

I hope that everyone has enjoyed this informative, life-changing, up-close and personal look at the artichoke as much as I've enjoyed bringing it to you. COMING SOON TO MY BLOG... OVEN MITTS: Friend or Foe?

-Chris

 
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1 comment:

  1. Nice tangent, Chris! What about the Jerusalem artichoke?

    ReplyDelete