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Scientific classification
Species:C. cardunculus
Binomial name
Cynara cardunculus
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Scientific classification
Species:C. cardunculus
Binomial name
Cynara cardunculus

The globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus)[1] is a perennial thistle of the genus Cynara originating in Southern Europe around the Mediterranean. It grows to 1.4–2 m (4.6–6.6 ft) tall, with arching, deeply lobed, silvery, glaucous-green leaves 50–82 cm (20–32 in) long. The flowers develop in a large head from an edible bud about 8–15 cm (3.1–5.9 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.



In the Maghreb (North Africa), where they are still found in the wild state, the seeds of artichokes, probably cultivated, were found during the excavation of Roman-period Mons Claudianus in Egypt.[2] Names for the artichoke in many European languages come from the Arabic الخرشوف al-khurshūf.[3] The Arabic term ardi-shoki (أرض شوكي), which means "ground thorny" is a false etymology of the English name. The cardoon (Cynara cardunculus),[4][5] a naturally occurring variant of the same species, is native to the South Mediterranean, though it has not been mentioned in extant classic literature. Artichokes were cultivated in Sicily since the time of the ancient Greeks, the Greeks calling them kaktos. In this period, the leaves and flower heads, which cultivation had already improved from the wild form, were eaten. The Romans, who called the vegetable carduus, received the plant from the Greeks. Further improvement in the cultivated form appears to have taken place in the Muslim period in the Maghreb, although the evidence is inferential only.[6]

Globe artichokes are known to have been cultivated at Naples around the middle of the 9th century. Modern scholar Le Roy Ladurie, in his book Les Paysans de Languedoc, has documented the spread of the artichoke:

"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."[7]

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

Agricultural output

Today, globe artichoke cultivation 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 an annual artichoke festival. Most recently, artichokes have been grown in South Africa in a small town called Parys located along the Vaal River. According to FAO, the top 10 artichoke producing countries are [in metric tonnes (2009)][8]:

  1.  Italy 486,600
  2.  Spain 198,900
  3.  Egypt 180,000
  4.  Peru 144,317
  5.  Argentina 90,293
  6.  China 67,000
  7.  Morocco 64,610
  8.  United States of America 50,710
  9.  France 46,752
  10.  Chile 44,600
  11.  South Africa 30,000
Artichoke output in 2005

Artichokes can be produced from seeds or from vegetative means such as division, root cuttings or micropropagation. Though technically perennials that normally produce the edible flower only during the second and subsequent years, certain varieties of artichoke can be grown from seed as annuals, producing a limited harvest at the end of the first growing season, even in regions where the plants are not normally winter-hardy. This means home gardeners in northern regions can attempt to produce a crop without the need to overwinter plants with special treatment or protection. The recently introduced seed cultivar 'Imperial Star' has been bred to produce in the first year without such measures. An even newer cultivar, 'Northern Star', is said to be able to overwinter in more northerly climates, and readily survives subzero temperatures.[9]

Artichoke field

Commercial culture is limited to warm areas in USDA hardiness zone 7 and above. It requires good soil, regular watering and feeding, plus frost protection in winter. Rooted suckers can be planted each year, so mature specimens can be disposed of after a few years, as each individual plant lives only a few years. The peak season for artichoke harvesting is the spring, but they can continue to be harvested throughout the summer, with another peak period in midautumn.

When harvested, they are cut from the plant so as to leave an inch or two of stem. Artichokes possess good keeping qualities, frequently remaining quite fresh for two weeks or longer under average retail conditions.

Apart from food use, the globe artichoke is also an attractive plant for its bright floral display, sometimes grown in herbaceous borders for its bold foliage and large purple flower heads.


The artichoke is an important winter vegetable in Mediterranean cultures - Dansa de la carxofa in Algemesí, Valencian Country

Traditional cultivars (vegetative propagation)

Cultivars propagated by seeds


Globe artichokes being cooked


In the US, large globe artichokes are frequently prepared by removing all but 5–10 mm (0.2–0.4 in) or so of the stem. To remove thorns, which may interfere with eating, around a quarter of each scale can be cut off. To cook, the artichoke is boiled or steamed. The core of the stem tastes similar to the artichoke heart, and is edible.

Salt may be added to the water if boiling artichokes. Leaving the pot uncovered may allow acids to boil off. Covered artichokes, in particular those that have been cut, can turn brown due to the enzymatic browning and chlorophyll oxidation. Placing them in water slightly acidified with vinegar or lemon juice can prevent the discoloration.

Leaves are often removed one at a time, and the fleshy base eaten, with hollandaise, vinegar, butter, mayonnaise, aioli, lemon juice, or other sauces. The fibrous upper part of each leaf is usually discarded. The heart is eaten when the inedible choke has been peeled away from the base and discarded. The thin leaves covering the choke are also edible.

Canned, marinated artichoke hearts

In Italy, artichoke hearts in oil are the usual vegetable for 'spring' section of the 'Four Seasons' pizza (with olives for summer, mushrooms for autumn, and prosciutto for winter).[11] A recipe well known in Rome is Jewish-style artichokes, which are deep-fried whole.[12]

Stuffed artichoke recipes are abundant. A common Italian stuffing uses a mixture of bread crumbs, garlic, oregano, parsley, grated cheese, and prosciutto or sausage. A bit of the mixture is then pushed into the spaces at the base of each leaf and into the center before boiling or steaming.[13]

In Spain, the more tender, younger, and smaller artichokes are used. They can be sprinkled with olive oil and left in hot ashes in a barbecue, sauteed in olive oil with garlic, with rice as a paella, or sautéed and combined with eggs in a tortilla (frittata).

Often cited is the Greek, aginares a la polita (artichokes city-style, referring to the city of Constantinople), a hearty, savory stew made with artichoke hearts, potatoes, and carrots, and flavored with onion, lemon, and dill.[14][15] The finest examples are to be found on the island of Tinos, and in Iria and Kantia, two small villages in Argolida in the Peloponnese of southern Greece.

Another way to use artichokes is to completely break off all of the leaves, leaving the bare heart. The leaves are steamed to soften the fleshy base part of each leaf to be used as the basis for any number of side dishes or appetizing dips, or the fleshy part is left attached to the heart, while the upper parts of the leaves are discarded. The remaining concave-shaped heart is often filled with meat, then fried or baked in a savory sauce. Frozen artichoke hearts are a time-saving substitute, though the consistency and stronger flavor of fresh hearts when available is preferred.

Throughout North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey, and Armenia, a favorite filling for stuffed artichoke hearts includes ground lamb. Spices reflect the local cuisine of each country. In Lebanon, for example, the typical filling would include lamb, onion, tomato, pinenuts, raisins, parsley, dill, mint, black pepper, and allspice. A popular Turkish vegetarian variety uses only onion, carrot, green peas, and salt.

A tea bag containing artichoke tea
Artichoke, cooked boiled, salted
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy220 kJ (53 kcal)
Carbohydrates10.51 g
- Sugars0.99 g
- Dietary fiber5.4 g
Fat0.34 g
Protein2.89 g
Thiamine (vit. B1)0.05 mg (4%)
Riboflavin (vit. B2)0.089 mg (7%)
Niacin (vit. B3)0.111 mg (1%)
Pantothenic acid (B5)0.240 mg (5%)
Vitamin B60.081 mg (6%)
Folate (vit. B9)89 μg (22%)
Vitamin C7.4 mg (9%)
Calcium21 mg (2%)
Iron0.61 mg (5%)
Magnesium42 mg (12%)
Phosphorus73 mg (10%)
Potassium276 mg (6%)
Zinc0.4 mg (4%)
Manganese 0.225 mg
Percentages are relative to
US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database


Artichokes can also be made into an herbal tea. It affords some of the qualities of the whole vegetable, acting as a diuretic and improving liver function[citation needed]. Artichoke tea is produced as a commercial product in the Da Lat region of Vietnam. The flower portion is put into water and consumed as a tea, called alcachofa in Mexico. It has a slightly bitter woody taste.


Artichoke is the primary flavor of the 33-proof (16.5%-alcohol) Italian liqueur Cynar produced exclusively by the Campari Group. It can be served over ice as an aperitif or as a cocktail mixed with orange juice, especially popular in Switzerland. It is also used to make a 'Cin Cyn', a slightly less-bitter version of the Negroni cocktail, by substituting Cynar in place of Campari.

Medical uses

The total antioxidant capacity of artichoke flower heads is one of the highest reported for vegetables.[16] Cynarin, an active chemical constituent in Cynara, causes increased bile flow.[medical citation needed] The majority of the cynarin 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.[17]

This diuretic vegetable is of nutritional value because of its exhibiting an aid to digestion, strengthening of the liver function and gall bladder function, and raising of the HDL/LDL ratio. This reduces cholesterol levels, which diminishes the risk for arteriosclerosis and coronary heart disease.[18] Aqueous extracts from artichoke leaves have also been shown to reduce cholesterol by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase and having a hypolipidemic influence, lowering blood cholesterol.[19] Artichoke contains the bioactive agents apigenin and luteolin.[20] C. scolymus also seems to have a bifidogenic effect on beneficial gut bacteria.[21] Artichoke leaf extract has proved helpful for patients with functional dyspepsia,[22] and may ameliorate symptoms of IBS.[23][24]


  1. ^ Rottenberg, A., and D. Zohary, 1996: The wild ancestry of the cultivated artichoke. Genet. Res. Crop Evol. 43, 53—58.
  2. ^ Vartavan, C. (de) and Asensi Amoros, V. 1997 Codex of Ancient Egyptian Plant Remains. London, Triade Exploration. Page 91
  3. ^ American Heritage Dictionary
  4. ^ "Cynara cardunculus information from NPGS/GRIN". Retrieved 2008-04-13. 
  5. ^ "Cynara cardunculus (Cardoon)". Taxonomy. UniProt. Retrieved 2009-08-12. 
  6. ^ Watson, Andrew. Agricultural innovation in the early Islamic world. Cambridge University Press. p.64
  7. ^ Wheaton, Barbara Ketcham, "Savoring the Past", (Touchstone Books, 1983) pp. 66-67
  8. ^
  9. ^ [1] Peters Seed and Research
  10. ^ a b c d e f [2] Nunhems Vegetable Seeds
  11. ^ "Four Seasons Pizza". Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  12. ^ "Jewish Artichokes". Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  13. ^ "Stuffed Artichokes". Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  14. ^ "Artichokes "City-Style"". Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  15. ^ "Artichokes a la polita". Archived from the original on 15 December 2010. Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  16. ^ Ceccarelli N., Curadi M., Picciarelli P., Martelloni L., Sbrana C., Giovannetti M. "Globe artichoke as a functional food" Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism 2010 3:3 (197-201)
  17. ^ Feifer, Jason (May 2011). "A Matter of Taste". Men's Health 26 (4): 140. 
  18. ^ "Efficacy of Artichoke dry extract in patients with hyperlipoproteinemia"
  19. ^ Inhibition of Cholesterol Biosynthesis in Primary Cultured Rat Hepatocytes by Artichoke (Cynara scolymus L.) Extracts
  20. ^ Cesar G. Fraga. "Plant Phenolics and Human Health– Biochemistry, Nutrition and Pharmacology" . Wiley. p.9
  21. ^ Costabile A, Kolida S, Klinder A, Gietl E, Bäuerlein M, Frohberg C, Landschütze V, Gibson GR "A double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study to establish the 'bifidogenic' effect of a very-long-chain inulin extracted from globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus) in healthy human subjects." Br J Nutr. 2010 Oct;104(7):1007-17
  22. ^ Holtmann G., Adam B., Haag S., Collet W., Grünewald E., Windeck T.,"Efficacy of artichoke leaf extract in the treatment of patients with functional dyspepsia: A six-week placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicentre trial." Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics 2003 18:11-12 (1099-1105)
  23. ^ Bundy R., Walker A.F., Middleton R.W., Marakis G., Booth J.C.L. "Artichoke leaf extract reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and improves quality of life in otherwise healthy volunteers suffering from concomitant dyspepsia: A subset analysis" Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2004 10:4 (667-669)
  24. ^ Walker A.F., Middleton R.W., Petrowicz O. "Artichoke leaf extract reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in a post-marketing surveillance study" Phytotherapy Research 2001 15:1 (58-61)
This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 edition of The Grocer's Encyclopedia.

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