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Description[edit]

This vegetable grows to 1.42 m (4.66.6 ft) tall, with arching, deeply lobed,
silvery, glaucous-green leaves 5082 cm (2032 in) long. The flowers develop in a
large head from an edible bud about 815 cm (36 in) diameter with numerous
triangular scales; the individual florets are purple. The edible portions of the
buds consist primarily of the fleshy lower portions of the involucral bracts and
the base, known as the "heart"; the mass of immature florets in the center of the
bud is called the "choke" or beard. These are inedible in older, larger flowers.

Chemical constituents[edit]
Artichoke contains the bioactive agents apigenin and luteolin.[2]

The total antioxidant capacity of artichoke flower heads is one of the highest
reported for vegetables.[3] Cynarine is a chemical constituent in Cynara. The
majority of the cynarine found in artichoke is located in the pulp of the leaves,
though dried leaves and stems of artichoke also contain it. It inhibits taste
receptors, making water (and other foods and drinks) seem sweet.[4]

Early history of use[edit]


The artichoke is mentioned as a garden plant in the 8th century BC by Homer and
Hesiod. The naturally occurring variant of the artichoke, the cardoon (Cynara
cardunculus), which is native to the Mediterranean area,[1] also has records of use
as a food among the ancient Greeks and Romans. Pliny the Elder mentioned growing of
'carduus' in Carthage and Cordoba.[5] In North Africa, where it is still found in
the wild state, the seeds of artichokes, probably cultivated, were found during the
excavation of Roman-period Mons Claudianus in Egypt.[6] Varieties of artichokes
were cultivated in Sicily beginning in the classical period of the ancient Greeks;
the Greeks calling them kaktos. In that period, the Greeks ate the leaves and
flower heads, which cultivation had already improved from the wild form. The Romans
called the vegetable carduus (hence the name cardoon). Further improvement in the
cultivated form appears to have taken place in the medieval period in Muslim Spain
and the Maghreb, although the evidence is inferential only.[7] Names for the
artichoke in many European languages today come from medieval Arabic ???? ???? Ardi
Shawki via late medieval Spain (where it is nowadays alcachofa).[8]

Le Roy Ladurie, in his book Les Paysans de Languedoc, has documented the spread of
artichoke cultivation in Italy and southern France in the late 15th and early 16th
centuries, when the artichoke appeared as a new arrival with a new name, which may
be taken to indicate an arrival of an improved cultivated variety:

The blossom of the thistle, improved by the Arabs, passed from Naples to Florence
in 1466, carried by Filippo Strozzi. Towards 1480 it is noticed in Venice, as a
curiosity. But very soon veers towards the northwest...Artichoke beds are mentioned
in Avignon by the notaries from 1532 onward; from the principle [sic] towns they
spread into the hinterlands ... appearing as carchofas at Cavaillon in 1541, at
Chateauneuf du Pape in 1553, at Orange in 1554. The local name remains carchofas,
from the Italian carciofo ... They are very small, the size of a hen's egg ... and
are still considered a luxury, a vaguely aphrodisiac tidbit that one preserved in
sugar syrup.[9]

The Dutch introduced artichokes to England, where they grew in Henry VIII's garden
at Newhall in 1530. They were taken to the United States in the 19th centuryto
Louisiana by French immigrants and to California by Spanish immigrants.

Agricultural output[edit]

Artichoke head with flower in bloom


Today, cultivation of the globe artichoke is concentrated in the countries
bordering the Mediterranean basin. The main European producers are Italy, Spain,
and France. In the United States, California provides nearly 100% of the U.S. crop,
and about 80% of that is grown in Monterey County; there, Castroville proclaims
itself to be "The Artichoke Center of the World", and holds the annual Castroville
Artichoke Festival. Most recently, artichokes have been grown in South Africa in a
small town called Parys located along the Vaal River.