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
Globe artichoke baked with goat's cheese
Artichokes make a tasty meal, without much preparation. They take a little work to eat, but it's well worth it.
4 globe artichokes, washed, stems and tough outer leaves removed
3 garlic cloves, roughly crushed
2 thyme sprigs, leaves removed from stalks (retain the stalks)
A handful of fresh parsley, tarragon and sorrel, leaves removed from stalks and finely chopped (retain the stalks)
300g soft goat's cheese
2 tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1 Trim the tips of the artichoke leaves then place the artichokes in one layer in a saucepan. Add the garlic and herb stalks, then season with salt and vinegar. Just cover the artichokes with water and add 2 tbsp olive oil. Replace the lid and simmer for 45 minutes.
2 When the artichokes are ready. Drain them upside down in a colander.
3 When cool enough to handle, press the leaves back, so the artichoke looks like a flower. Pull out the small centre leaves and scrape out the choke.
4 Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Mix the breadcrumbs with 100g goat's cheese, the herbs and remaining oil and season to taste.
5 Put 50g goat's cheese inside each artichoke, close the leaves, packing the breadcrumb mix among them. Bake for 25 minutes, until golden.
6 To eat, open the artichoke and pull the leaves off, dip in the goat's cheese and scrape the soft base of the leaf off with your teeth. Then eat the heart.
Rosie Sykes is head chef of Fitzbillies (fitzbillies.com) and co-author of The Kitchen Revolution (Ebury Press, £27.50). To order a copy, for £19.99 with free UK p&p, go to guardianbookshop.co.uk
Photograph: Getty Images/StockFood