Botanical name: Cynara cardunculus
Artichoke is a plant of a thousand virtues.
Origins and history
Its use was already well known in antiquity, both in the Middle East and in Europe, among the ancient Greeks (who called it "Ankinara") as well as among the Romans, who knew and appreciated its medicinal qualities as well as its taste. tantalizing.
Its scientific name is Cynara Scolymus and belongs to the thistle family (Asteraceae).
It has multiple varieties, classified according to size, color, the presence or absence of thorns and seasonality. The most valuable autumn varieties are suitable for fresh consumption; the spring ones are generally destined for the canning industry and are sold frozen or canned. Among the thorny varieties we remember the Ligurian and the Sardinian, among those without thorns the famous Romanesco. Paestum is an Italian product of excellence and has obtained the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) from the European Union.
Nutritional and beneficial properties of the artichoke
It is low in calories and fat; 100 g of this vegetable provides only 47 calories. It represents an excellent source of fiber and helps in case of constipation; reduces the levels of LDL cholesterol (the so-called "bad" cholesterol) by binding to it in the intestine and helping to reduce the risk of colon cancer by preventing the absorption of toxic substances.
The cynarin, of which it is rich, improves bile secretion, to the benefit of the liver. Contains vitamins and folic acid, which is very useful, among other things, during the period of pre-conception and in the early stages of pregnancy as it helps prevent neural tube defects in the newborn.
The its supply of vitamin C helps the body to develop resistance against infectious agents and free radicals. It is rich in vitamins K and B6 and in essential minerals such as copper, calcium, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus, as well as flavonoid compounds antioxidants. In short, it is a real mine of precious substances for our body. It is extremely used in the herbal field. It can be consumed in the form of herbal tea, decoction or mother tincture for a purifying and detoxifying action.
Use of Artichoke in the kitchen
This virtuous vegetable lends itself to numerous culinary preparations. It is suitable for those who follow a low-calorie and low-fat diet: eaten raw in salads or even just boiled, cooked with acidulated water, it is tasty and nutritious. A drizzle of oil and lemon will be enough to enhance the flavor.
For those who do not have line problems or do not want to give up more decisive tastes, the choice is endless: stuffed, fried, baked with peas or potatoes, combined with other vegetables or cheeses in savory pies ... the only limit is fantasy.
An idea for dinner? Prepare them stewed with potatoes: just peel them, cut them in half and brown them in a pan with extra virgin olive oil and a clove of garlic. Subsequently, when they have started to soften, add the potatoes, half a glass of water, salt and parsley. About twenty minutes in a saucepan, a handful of pepper and the result will be surprising, light but full of flavor.
Few vegetables turn out to be as versatile and succulent. Protagonist of delicious first courses, tantalizing second courses and delicious side dishes, goes well with meat, fish and combined with other vegetables. Wellbeing, taste and imagination in a single product!
It is not a fruit, but a bud: if left to grow and not picked, it turns into a blue colored flower.
A legend handed down by Quinto Orazio Flacco tells us of its origin: a beautiful nymph, Cynara, lived on the island of Zinari. Zeus, visiting his brother Poseidon, could not help but notice and seduce her. He was so entranced that he decided to make her a goddess, so that she could be closer to Olympus and they could indulge in long love encounters. But Cynara soon fell ill with homesickness and missed her mother, so she fled for a brief visit to the mortal world; enraged, Zeus took away from her the privilege of the deity and to punish her he transformed her into the plant we know today.
A little curiosity: the poet Pablo Neruda, who appreciated the taste of this product from the garden, dedicated an ode to it: "Oda a la Alcachofa".