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Two thousand years ago, the ancient Romans were growing artichokes, using it in salads. Artichokes made it to England in 1548, and French settlers planted them in Louisiana in the mid-nineteenth century. Today, California is America's main producer. It's peak months are March, April and May.

The name artichoke derives from the northern Italian words "articiocco" and "articoclos," which refers to what we would know as a pine cone. The bud of the artichoke actually resembles a pinecone.

One variety of vegetable is the Jerusalem artichoke, but it is not a true artichoke. It is a tuberous member of the sunflower family. Two common types of artichokes are the cone-shaped Cardoon and the Globe, or the Green Globe.

It is a large, vigorous plant with long, coarse, spiny leaves that grow up to three feet in length. A perennial, the artichoke plant may grow as high as six feet tall.

Select one that is compact, plump and heavy. A ripe artichoke yields slightly to firm pressure, and has tightly clinging, fleshy leaf scales. Artichokes that are brown in color are old or bruised. Overripe artichokes are open or spreading, and the tips and scales are hard.

The edible parts of the artichoke are the fleshy part of the leaves and the heart. Medium-sized artichokes are best. Larger ones tend to have less taste.

Artichokes are a great addition to salads.

To prepare, cut off the stem and any damages leaves. Wash it in cold, running water, then place in boiling water. Cook twenty to thirty minutes until tender.

To eat artichokes, pull of the petal leaves, like the petals of a daisy flower, and bite off the end.

Beneficial Effects

Artichoke hearts and leaves include a great deal of roughage. They contain Vitamins A and C, excellent for fighting infections and building the immune system. They are also high in calcium and iron.

Artichoke Trivia

Marilyn Monroe (Norma Jean), before her acting career, was crowned Artichoke Queen in 1947 in Castroville, California.

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