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Sun, Dec. 15

From Cynara to Miss Piggy, it’s an artichoke of the heart

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At the center of every love story is a broken heart or, in this case, an artichoke heart.

Legend has it that the Greek God Zeus had become enchanted by the maiden Cynara and promised to turn her into a goddess if she would go away with him. Smitten with Zeus she agreed, but after a while she grew homesick and left him to return to her homeland. Zeus was so enraged by her abandoning him that he decided to turn her into the artichoke plant. Perhaps not the ideal ending to a love story, but her beauty lives on in these glorious plants.

Pleasing to the eye and delicious to eat, the artichoke is technically not a vegetable but an unopened flower bud of a perennial thistle. Originating in the Mediterranean, they are one of the oldest foods known to man. Artichokes are part of the sunflower family, and all the artichokes we eat come from Castroville, California – the artichoke center of the world.

For a mere 65 calories, artichokes are loaded with 16 essential nutrients and provide you with about a quarter of your daily fiber needs. They are also loaded with antioxidants, in fact, recent studies have shown they rate No. 1 overall in antioxidant levels.

They aid in lowering cholesterol, help treat chronic digestive problems and also help detoxify our bodies. So whether you steam them, broil them or grill, they add a touch of sophistication to the dinner table.

However, there are those who consider the artichoke too much trouble; I leave you with the following sentiment from Miss Piggy.

“These things are just plain annoying. After all the trouble you go to, you get about as much actual “food” out of eating an artichoke as you would from licking 30 or 40 postage stamps. Have the shrimp cocktail instead.”

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