Today we know that the artichoke is very high in fibre, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus and other trace elements important for a balanced system. It is known to positively help poor liver function (thus helping to lower the blood cholesterol), arteriosclerosis, gout, supports the treatment of hepatitis and improves the gall secretions. It can slightly lower the blood sugar, improve the appetite and digestion, is diuretic and may help some migraine conditions (most especially those caused by toxins in the blood). As it helps the body rid itself of excess water and moves toxins it also has the added side effect of an improved skin luminosity.
In a poor diet of excessive drinking (most especially strong alcoholic drinks), high red meat and fat consumption, the artichoke can boost the liver's ability to regenerate its cells. Obviously, nothing can help advanced cirrhosis of the liver. Most liver problems by the way, are self-inflicted.
The liver's main function is the metabolic transformation of nutrients from the food we eat. It also detoxifies certain poisons. An overstressed liver obviously cannot function properly, which among other things results in poor assimilation of nutrients and increased toxins in the blood. This will eventually adversely affect the entire body causing numerous ailments that are often only symptomatically treated. What is amazing are the numbers of people who abuse their livers and hence their bodies, think they eat well, yet are suffering from a form of malnutrition - a word one associates with poverty and third world countries.
What to do? Take an honest appraisal of your diet, recognize unhealthy habits and develop a better understanding of the importance of a properly functioning liver. After serious drinking and weeks of fat-rich foods, do something good for your liver. Give it a break and help it to recuperate.
When artichokes are in season, go on a short term Artichoke 'Cure' (treatment, diet)! Discover new recipes and eat them as a main meal for several days. Repeat for as long as they are in season, varying the menu with small amounts of meat and other vegetables. Artichokes only have about 25 calories. Eat fish and poultry 3 times a week and cut out red meat for while. Avoid all animal fats during this time, use olive oil instead and avoid all strong alcohol. A few glasses of red wine a day helps the red blood cell production as well, however abstain from even wine for the several days to a week before adding a small glass with your meal. Another positive side to artichokes and improved liver function is that weight loss is easier as the metabolic assimilation of food is more efficient.
Infusion: use the leaves you normally throw away. You will need about 12-15 leaves per half litre (approx. 2 cups) of boiling water. Pour over the chopped leaves and allow to brew for 5 minutes. Strain and drink 2 cups during the day. You may sweeten with honey if you like. However, an easier method is to purchase an excellent extract by the W. Schoenenberger, Salus or A. Vogel companies from the health food shop).
Versatile: once trimmed, the versatile Spanish or Italian artichoke (remember you can eat the whole choke) can be cooked whole, sliced lengthways, halved, quartered or chopped, pre-cooked in a little water or broth and used in rice dishes, potato dishes, salads or as a topping for pizzas. They can be fried, steamed, boiled, stuffed, chopped with other ingredients for a filling for tomatoes, served with sauces. Chop the hearts very fine and they can be used in vinaigrette, mayonnaise, mixed with cooked egg or grated cheese or used in omelettes. Then there's quiche, pasta and risotto dishes - you are only limited by your imagination!
How to Cook and Eat an Artichoke
I can imagine, that if you didn't grow up eating artichokes and if you were encountering them for the first time, they might seem a little intimidating. How one cooks and eats an artichoke is not obvious from its appearance. If you've always wondered how to cook and eat the darn things, here are the steps: