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The Many Benefits of Artichokes
I’ll never forget the first time this Southern girl had an artichoke. I was in Junior High and my Mother decided it was time for us to upgrade our palettes. She steamed them and showed my sister and I how to peel the leaves, dip them in sauce, and eat them. For my Mother and sister, it was love at first bite! For me on the other hand – it left a bit to be desired. However, as I grew and became a Mother myself, teaching my children to try new and interesting foods, I found myself choking down an artichoke or two. Thanks to the American Botanical Council’s Herb Clip news service, I have discovered that artichokes are more than just a ‘tasty’ vegetable. In fact, artichokes have impressive medical benefits.
Way back in the 4th century B.C., the noted naturalist Theophrastus first described artichokes [Cynara Scolymus] botanically and noted that they help calm an upset stomach. The old boy was right: Modern research has shown that artichokes stimulate bile flow. Bile helps digest fats. Several clinical trials have shown that artichoke leaf extract soothes indigestion and helps relieve flatulence, nausea, and irritable bowel symptoms. In a few studies 87 to 98 percent of people who took artichoke extract [now that I could handle] said it worked as well as or better than other medicine they had taken for their gastrointestinal symptoms.
Artichoke also lowers cholesterol by speeding its elimination, in one recent European study, 44 people with a total cholesterol count above 220 mg /dl were given either artichoke leaf extract or a placebo. Those taking the herb enjoyed a significant cholesterol reduction, and the higher their cholesterol was at the beginning of the study, the greater the subsequent reduction.
Finally, artichokes contain compounds that help protect the liver from damage. This becomes surprising when you know that the plant is botanically related to milk thistle and contains compounds similar to silymarin, the collective name for the potent liver-protectors found in that herb.
I suppose in addition to eating the leaves as a vegetable, you can use the hearts and crowns in salads and cooking. So eat your vegetables, enjoy those artichokes!
Here is a recipe that I actually did try out on guests and found that I could actually tolerate and artichoke heart!
3 Slices of bacon
1 clove garlic
1 package [9 oz] frozen artichoke hearts
1 lb fresh spinach
1/8 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
Seasoning to taste
Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan.
Chop the bacon and sauté it in a large skillet until it is crisp, about 15 minutes.
Peel and mince the garlic. Trim and chop the scallions. Drain the bacon on a paper towel, reserving the drippings.
Cook the artichokes in the boiling water until they are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Rinse, dry and shop the spinach. Add the spinach to the artichokes for the last 2 minutes of cooking.
Sauté the garlic and the scallions in the bacon drippings for 3 minutes. Stir in the Tabasco sauce. Season to taste.
Drain the vegetables will and add them to the skillet. Return the bacon to the skillet and toss.
MAGICKAL FORM: heart, leaves
As a member of the thistle family, artichokes carry armor and are eaten to ward off danger. Use them in rituals to get to the heart of a matter. Slowly work your way through the delicacy, peeling the leaves until you are at its core. Visualize the problem you are trying to sort out as you strip the leaves away. When you arrive at the heart, imagine your problem being solved at its very foundation. Roman artichokes stimulate the energy glands and increase sexual and physical stamina.
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