Joanna Blythman, guardian.co.uk, recipe by Rosie Sykes, Updated: June 24, 2013 11:19 IST
Globe artichokes are architectural and detoxifying, with a pleasantly bitter aftertaste.
This spiky member of the thistle family produces edible globes of various hues and sizes. The small purple heads that gladden Italian markets in the early spring need little trimming and make excellent eating when sliced razor thin and served raw. The more available British crop produces large, green heads that require assertive trimming: a sharp heavy knife is essential. But the preparation work is worth it when you bite into those creamy-soft hearts and lower leaves with their pleasant underpinning of mild bitterness.
Why are globe artichokes good for me?
They contain a number of phytonutrients, such as apigenin, cynarin, silymarin and luteolin, which appear to have diuretic properties, detoxifying the liver, boosting gall bladder function, and improving bile flow. Widely used in traditional medicine as a remedy for water retention and liver ailments, globe artichokes are thought to aid digestion and help people who experience stomach acidity. Globe artichokes also contain a lot of soluble fibre, so they won't destabilise blood sugar levels. Some research suggests that artichoke leaf extract may also help ease irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.
Where to buy and what to pay
Supermarkets class large green globe artichokes as "exotic" - code for "expensive" - so expect to pay £2 each for the privilege. Indie greengrocers and market stalls charge a much more reasonable sum, from £1.20 each in spring, going down as low as 89p as the summer season gets into its stride. Italian food emporia may stock the pricier, small violet sort. Guide price: £10-12/kg.
Joanna Blythman is the author of What To Eat (Fourth Estate, £9.99). To order a copy for £7.99 with free UK p&p, go to guardianbookshop.co.uk