Saturday, 24 July 2010

Chok full of goodness!

Apparently, there is a campaign to have a meat free Monday to encourage general carnivores to abstain from meat once a week as it is assumed non-veggies consume animals seven days a week, thereby using up the world's resources. 

I'd rather eat whatever we fancied on the basis it's produced locally (preferably the UK) using locally produced fertilisers/feeds and in season. This alone would significantly reduce energy consumption and support the local economy. No more green beans from Kenya!

Comments welcome!

Anyway, in support of my veggie friends, a meat-free Monday and my own momentary foray into the world of vegetarianism during a particularly dark period, this week's food of the week is a vegetable, of the most interesting kind!

Food of the Week: Artichoke

The common or garden artichoke is really quite special as it's actually a member of the thistle family. Here are a few facts and a few old wives tales...

No one knows from where the artichoke hails although it's generally believed to somewhere in North Africa.

Why the weird name?
The various European names of the artichoke all ultimately come from Arabic al-kharshuf but names have evolved from kaktos (Ancient Greeks) to carduus (Romans) to carchofas (SW France - from Italian carciofo - pronounced carchofo). The english word 'artichoke' seems to come from a Northern Italian dialect of articiocco (pronounced artichocko). I met some people from Ferrara once who endorsed this last fact.

Where did it come from?
Cultivation passed from Naples to Florence in 1466, to Venice in 1480 and then to Avignon and environs from 1532. Somehow the Dutch got in on the game and brought them to Henry VIII's garden in England in 1530. But the Americans weren't sure about eating thistles until the 19th century. Now they are mainly grown in the Mediterranean basin (although we have a few here in Blighty too!)

Things you should know!

According to the Turks you should eat an artichoke a week to keep your liver healthy. According to other nutritionists, it's good for liver, gallbladder and bladder functionality so we should eat more of them.

The artichoke genus is Cynara cardunculus. That's where the Italian artichoke liqueur gets its name

The 'choke' is the fuzzy bit that's inedible - I don't know what the arti bit is.

The Jerusalem Artichoke is an imposter - nothing to do with the artichoke at all.

How to eat

Whole, boiled and served with hollandaise, butter or aioli
Just the hearts, chopped up on a 4 seasons pizza, in pasta or pan fried with lemon and pepper

Where to eat

The Anchor & Hope in Waterloo has amazing globe artichokes when they are season. Union Market in Fulham has beautiful stuffed artichokes in their deli. Otherwise experiment with your own!

Perfect for a Meat Free Monday in July!

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