It’s that time of the year again when artichokes’ earthy and nutty flavors come to life. As spring emerges, so do these thorny vegetables, packed with a plethora of health benefits. From aiding digestion to supporting heart health, artichokes are a nutritional powerhouse that can add a touch of elegance to any dish. Whether you’re a foodie, health enthusiast or just looking to try something new, there’s no reason not to indulge in these seasonal delights.
What are the health benefits of artichokes?
Artichokes are rich in fiber, packing a whopping 7 to 9 grams per serving, making them an excellent food for promoting healthy digestion. Artichokes’ high fiber content helps promote regularity and maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria. They also contain a compound called cynarin, which has been shown to stimulate bile production. Bile is a digestive fluid that helps to break down fats in the diet, aiding in their absorption. This helps reduce the risk of bloating and gas.
Additionally, artichokes contain compounds that may promote healthy cholesterol levels, which is just one of the many reasons they support heart health. Specifically, artichokes contain flavones, which have been shown to potentially lower levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol while increasing levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Artichokes also contain antioxidants, such as folate and vitamin C, that can help protect the heart and cardiovascular system from increased disease risk. Lastly, they’re a good source of potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure.
When are artichokes in season?
Artichokes, a Mediterranean delicacy, have been cultivated since ancient times. Italy, France and Spain are the largest producers of artichokes globally. In the United States, California is responsible for almost 100% of all artichoke production. California boasts two seasons for the vegetable, with the primary harvest taking place in the spring and a smaller harvest in the fall. Artichokes are at their pinnacle from February to June and September to December. Their peak season is from March to May, when connoisseurs can appreciate their fullness of flavors at a lower price.
How to pick an artichoke
In order to pick choose the perfect artichoke at the supermarket, look for artichokes that appear hydrated and have tight leaves. If there’s a bit of discoloration, that’s OK. To know if it’s ripe, gently bend a leaf. If it snaps, it’s ripe; if it’s squishy and bendy, it’s past its peak freshness. You can also look at the bottom of the stem. If it’s green, it’s fresh; if it’s brown, it’s been sitting out longer.
If you’re looking to enjoy artichokes out of season or want a simpler introduction to this veggie, frozen and canned artichokes offer a convenient and accessible alternative that still provides many of the same benefits. Frozen and canned artichokes are typically already cooked, making them incredibly easy to use. Simply add them straight to soups, stews, pasta dishes and salads without any fuss. This convenience means that you can always have the flavor and nutrition of artichokes on hand.
One of the significant benefits of using frozen or canned artichokes is that they are available year-round. This is particularly beneficial if you live in a region where fresh artichokes are difficult to come by or are only available seasonally. Additionally, frozen, or canned artichokes are often less expensive than fresh artichokes, making them an excellent choice for those on a budget.
Keep in mind that canned artichokes will have significantly more sodium than frozen, 700 mg in canned compared to 0 mg in frozen. However, these jarred artichoke hearts from Private Selection have about 360 mg for the whole jar, for an in-between option. Rinsing canned vegetables before consumption can also decrease the sodium content.
Artichoke recipes to try
Artichokes are a delicious and nutritious addition to any diet, and you’ll quickly find this vegetable enjoyable. Whether you’re grilling, roasting, or steaming them, artichokes are versatile and can add a unique flavor and texture to your favorite dishes.
Not only are they packed with fiber and other important nutrients, but artichokes contain compounds that promote healthy digestion and support heart health. This season, don’t be afraid to pick up some artichokes and incorporate them into meals for a healthy boost that your body will thank you for.
Here are a few artichoke recipe ideas for inspiration!