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Food

Wild or Νot, a Taste You Will Not Forget: Artichoke

Agricultural science has made ‘miracles’ by using little treasures of nature: the genetic resources of plants. One of them is the artichoke – a jewel that offers bonuses of both nutrition and pleasure.

Cynara cardunculus, or wild artichoke, is a beautiful plant that grows freely on sandy beaches. It looks like thistle, but it is a different plant entirely. She spreads out her thorns and laughs at every predator around, calling out “come and get me if you dare.” The beautiful pinkish flowers, however, say to bees, “well, you are welcome.”

The edible part of the plant is the interior of the flower, hence the spiky challenge.

The Peloponnese and Aegean islands used to be full of them, but heavy, ‘industrialized’, unsustainable tourism had a great impact to them. Nevertheless, you can find and collect them in the spring, at the peak of their bloom. Wild artichoke have a more mild taste, you can use them in salads, roast them in ovens or on barbecues, or even pickle them.

Artichokes have been cultivated in Greece since the time of Theophrastus. Their use in various cuisines as well as their therapeutic properties have been studied. Wild or not, these pink jewels are rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamins A, B, C, and K. Copper, iron, potassium and zinc are found in good amounts also. Greek anginares alla Polita (artichokes of the City) is a recipe from Constantinople – The City. It is a delicious stew with artichokes, potatoes, carrots, onions, olive oil and dill.

As an herb, artichokes where traditionally used to reduce fever and to sooth tonsils and sore throats. Also, raw pounded leaves can be used as a poultice for hemorrhoids. Recent studies have revealed the anti-inflammatory protective properties of artichoke leaf extract. Even though there  extensive biomedical herbal research which confirms its historical used as an herb, the most significant uses appears to have been prompted by its hepatoprotective, properties, the ability to protect the liver and help it regenerate. This may also play a role in lowering cholesterol and preventing heart disease according to studies.

My advice is to buy them fresh and google to learn how to clean them well, in order to keep the ‘good soft part’.

It is produce that is expensive and difficult to cultivate, so it is a pity to destroy it. If you buy frozen, just search for the ‘expensive’ good brands – which are worth it. This delicate taste needs delicate hands to be preserved.

* The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reach herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.

Evropi-Sofia Dalampira holds a PhD in Agricultural Economics and an MSc in Botany-Biology.

 

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