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Artichoke From A to Z: 26 Interesting Things to Know

Artichoke From A to Z: 26 Interesting Things to Know

From Amélie (and her fabulous destiny) to Zeus, 26 artichoke nutrition facts, oddities and curious bites you maybe didn't know.

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Amélie. “Even artichokes have hearts” is the famous phrase uttered by the protagonist interpreted by Audrey Tatou in the film entitled The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie (2001), directed by Jean Pierre Jeunet.

Beer. Artichoke beer actually exists: these are Italian produced craft beers which have come to the fore recently.

Cardoon. The artichoke is probably a cultivated plant deriving from the cardoon and native to the Mediterranean basin. In the course of the centuries it was gradually perfected by Arab agronomists and landed in Europe in the Middle Ages, from where it was taken to America by French and Spanish explorers.

Diuretic. The cynarin contained in artichokes is extremely beneficial to liver and kidneys. This vegetable has detoxifying, digestive and diuretic properties as well as stimulating the lymphatic drainage system.

Evergreen. Evergreen does not refer to the artichoke plant in particular, but rather, to those who eat it: according to figures released in 2010 by the United States Agriculture Department, the antioxidant properties of the artichoke are excellent. Spices apart, edible artichoke parts are superior in this respect to any other vegetable and on a par with red berries.

Flower. Artichoke flowers, explosive little violet puffballs that are slow to bloom are increasingly used as decorative elements in gardens and flower beds.

Globe. The globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var.scolymus) is the common artichoke whose edible part is actually the flower bud before it blossoms.

Heart. The best part of the artichoke. Artichokes are so good for the human heart as well.

Istanbul. The most famous Greek recipe for artichokes is called “Aginares a la polita”, a stew with a slight hint of lemon, flavoured with dill whose name means “city-style artichokes”: the city in question is ancient Constantinople, the New Rome or Golden City, which we know today as Istanbul in Turkey.

Jerusalem. It is called a Jerusalem artichoke but, in actual fact, is totally unrelated to artichokes: often called topinambur, it is a sort of sunflower whose edible roots are consumed.

Kcalories. Just 47 to100 grams of edible artichoke parts.

Lemon. After cleaning and trimming the artichokes, plunge them into water acidulated with lemon juice – or vinegar – to prevent them turning brown from oxidation, which may also occur if they are cooked in a saucepan without a lid..

Melancholy of an afternoon. This is a 1913 painting depicting two artichokes by Italy’s greatest metaphysical artist, Giorgio de Chirico.

Neruda. Pablo Neruda, one of the most prominent figures of contemporary Latin American literature wrote this Ode to an Artichoke, whose tender heart metaphorically represents that of the poet.

Operation Artichoke. This was the name given to a project carried out by the CIA in the early 50’s, which studied hypnosis, forced morphine addiction and the use of other substances including LSD to provoke amnesia and other vulnerable states in human beings.

Pizza. In the famous Four Seasons pizza, the segment dedicated to spring is topped with artichoke hearts.

Queen. In 1947, the young girl crowned “Queen of Californian Artichokes” at the Artichoke Festival of Castroville (the State’s artichoke capital which produces almost 100% of American artichokes) was Miss Norma Jean Baker, later known as Marilyn Monroe.

Raw. The best artichokes to eat raw – cut very finely and seasoned with salt, extra virgin olive oil and lemon – are some violet coloured Italian varieties.

Stem. The heart of the stem is like fish cheek: a delicacy for real connoisseurs! Don’t cut off the stem: it helps prevent the head turning brown.

Torta pasqualina. Torta pasqualina is the well known artichoke-filled savoury pie of Italian cuisine, traditionally made to celebrate Easter, with its 33 puff pastry layers, the same number as the years of Christ.

University of Comenius. A research carried out by this university in Slovakia has shown that artichoke leaf extract inhibits the growth of leukaemia cells.

Violet. Some artichoke varieties are decidedly violet, such as 'The Moretto' of Brisighella, native to the Romagna area of the Padana plain in Italy and awaiting certification, it is harvested exclusively by hand in the early hours of the morning.

Wine. Strange as it may seem, artichoke wine exists and is actually very good for the digestion. In actual fact it is a liquor; the best known brand is Cynar, now owned by the Campari Group.

Xxx. A symbol of fertility and sacrifice among the Ancient Egyptians, in the course of history artichokes have been considered aphrodisiacal even though their power to stimulate sexual desire has never been proved scientifically.

Year 1935. On12 December, accompanied by a trumpet fanfare, the Mayor of New York Fiorello La Guardia declared the trade and possession of baby artichokes (the small, favourite variety among Italian immigrants) to be illegal , since it was monopolized by the mafia headed by Ciro Terranova, the Artichoke King. Three days later, the edict was withdrawn owing to the very strong market demand for this product.

Zeus. Cynara was breathtakingly beautiful with her ash blonde hair and green and violet eyes: one day Zeus, father of the gods, saw her and fell hopelessly in love. He took her to Olympus but became furious on one occasion because the nymph returned to earth to visit her mother. He turned her into a spiky vegetable with a tender heart: the artichoke. This is how the origin of this super-food and magnificent flower is narrated by Greek mythology.

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