Artichokes are a species of thistle, native to the Mediterranean. Cultivated as a vegetable, artichokes have been eaten at least since the ancient Greek and Roman periods; there is even an Aegean myth about the god Zeus transforming a young woman into an artichoke because he was jealous of her beauty!
Artichokes can be difficult to prepare as a food, due to their tough exterior, but they have a sweet and mild flavour which has been compared to a cross between celery and asparagus.
Rich in dietary fibre, artichokes are an excellent source of folic acid, which is vital for cell building and repair. Artichokes are also a good source of vitamin K, which has important neuro-protective effects in the body and helps to maintain strong bones too.
Powerful antioxidants in artichokes include silymarin and caffeic acid, which can help to neutralise the cell damage caused by free radicals. Artichokes also contain many B vitamins, and are an important source of copper, potassium, calcium and manganese.
Artichoke hearts can be eaten in a number of ways as part of a healthy diet. Artichoke supplements are typically made from the leaves of the artichoke, which are tough to eat but which contain essential phytonutrients.