The artichoke is a large thistle that belongs to the sunflower family. The green vegetable has several thick pointed leaves attached to a central heart. It resembles a large flower bud on top of a slender stalk. The soft petal bases and heart of the vegetable are the edible portions. California's Salinas Valley leads in production of this vegetable where it is available throughout the year and where the small town of Castroville is dubbed the "Artichoke Capitol of the World".
An average artichoke globe measures about 6-10 cm in diameter and weighs about 150 g. Fuzzy, immature florets in the center of the bud constitute its "choke". The outer leaves are tough and inedible at the tip, but fleshy and tender at the base. The choke is inedible and is enclosed within a cone of immature leaves. The heart is a meaty base and is the part that you work your way to when eating an artichoke.
Artichokes are one of the most nutrient dense vegetables around. There are16 essential nutrients in a medium artichoke; the same artichoke contains a mere 25 calories and very little fat. This vegetable is a good source of folate, dietary fiber, and vitamins C and K. Artichokes are also packed with antioxidants; they're number 7 on the USDA's top 20 antioxidant-rich foods list.
*Heaviest production is Mar - May & Aug - Oct
SW Desert includes Yuma Arizona and Coachella & Imperial Valleys in California