Are you craving artichokes? I am! They’re a great ‘diet’ or ‘healthy living’ food (however you want to say it), because they are chock a block with vitamins and minerals, they deliver a lot of bang for your calorie buck, and – depending on how you cook ’em up – they can take a good deal of time to eat!
I did a bit of research – just for the fun of it – and here’s the skinny on the Artichoke’s fantastical past, followed by some interesting information!
According to Aegean myth, the first artichoke was a divine young woman who lived on the island of Zinari. One day the Greek god, Zeus, visited his brother Poseidon (God of the Sea). (They were some powerful family.)
Zeus emerged from the sea to discover a beautiful young mortal woman. She did not seem frightened by him or seem to notice that he was a god. Zeus, naturally, took full advantage of the opportunity and seduced her. Her name was Cynara, and it all ‘went’ so well that he decided to make her a goddess. This would enable her to live near to his home on Mt. Olympus. (Long distance romance was not his thing.)
Cynara agreed. Zeus had a plan. He thought that whenever his wife Hera was away, he’d get together with Cynara. However, Cynara soon became homesick. She missed her mother, so she slipped back to the earth for a short but meaningful visit with the mortals. When she returned, it was quite apparent that she had a new attitude. Zeus wasn’t particularly happy with her un-goddess-like behavior. He threw a fit and tossed her back to earth, and he changed her into the plant that we now call the artichoke.
The artichoke is a part of the thistle group; a member of the sunflower family. The plant can reach heights of three to four feet, and its diameter can cover a six foot area. The “vegetable” we eat is actually the plant’s flower bud, and if allowed to flower, a gorgeous violet-blue blossom will present itself.
Artichokes are available twelve months a year, but their peak season is spring and fall. Most artichokes are grown in France, Italy, and Spain, but California farms nearly 100 percent of the United States’ crop. Baby artichokes are a smaller version of the larger artichokes. The flowers buds are picked from the lower part of the plant, where they receive less sun, which therefore stunts their growth.
Recent German studies indicate that artichoke extract lowers cholesterol.
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