Food Science: Artichokes
The artichoke is a variety of a species called ‘thistle’ that is cultivated as a food. The budding artichoke flower-head is a cluster of many small budding flowers bunched together with many bracts, on an edible base. Once the buds bloom the structure changes to a coarse, barely edible form. The edible portion of the plant consists of the flower buds before the flowers come into bloom.
Artichoke has many uses such as tea, liqueur and medicinal. Artichokes is a key ingredient in anherbal tea. “Artichoke tea” is produced as a commercial product in the Da Latregion of Vietnam. The flower portion is put into water and consumed as an herbal tea, called alcachofa in Mexico. It is the primary flavor of the Italian liqueur Cynar produced exclusively by the Campari Group. It can be served over ice as an aperitif or as a cocktail mixed with orange juice, especially popular in Switzerland. It is also used to make a ‘Cin Cyn’, a slightly less-bitter version of the Negroni cocktail, by substituting Cynar in place of Campari. Artichokes’ antioxidant capacity is one of the highest reported for vegetables.
Cynarine is a chemical constituent in Cynara. The majority of the cynarine found in artichoke is located in the pulp of the leaves, though dried leaves and stems of artichoke also contain it. It inhibits taste receptors, making water (and other foods and drinks) seem sweet. Studies have shown artichoke to aid digestion, hepatic and gall bladder function, and raise the ratio of HDL to LDL. This reduces cholesterol levels, which diminishes the risk for arteriosclerosis and coronary heart disease. Artichoke leaf extract has proved helpful for patients with functional dyspepsia and may ameliorate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
The top global producers are Italy, Spain, and France. In the United States, California provides nearly 100% of the U.S. crop, and about 80% of that is grown in Monterey County; there, Castroville proclaims itself to be “The Artichoke Center of the World”, and holds the annual Castroville Artichoke Festival.
“Contents – Molecular Nutrition Food Research 9’2011
” Molecular Nutrition & Food Research 55.9 (2011): 1272. Print. Potter, Norman N. Food Science. Westport, CT: AVI Pub., 1986. Print.