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Artichokes are considered a luxury food in many parts of the world. It is a thistle plant found across the globe, and the French artichoke is perhaps the most common variety.
In essence, it is a green vegetable that is grown in parts of Italy, Spain, France, and California. It is incredibly popular in many European cuisines and is also commonly served in restaurants across the United States.
For some people who have never had it, a fresh artichoke can look a bit awkward. It resembles a thorny green vegetable, and it has to be prepared very carefully before one can taste the meat inside.
Artichoke hearts are commonly frozen, canned, and sold all around the globe. You can easily find artichokes in your local supermarket. They can be steamed, boiled, baked, or they can be grilled.
What’s an Artichoke?
The artichoke is simply the immature flower bud of a thistle plant and it belongs to the aster family. Before the flower blossoms, the bud is harvested from the plant and prepared for consumption.
Owing to the delicate nature of the plant, the artichoke is one of the few vegetables that should be prepared primarily by experienced chefs. There is quite a bit of work to be done before the artichoke can be prepared for consumption.
There are the outer leaves, which contain thorns on the tips. While the base of the leaves and the innermost leaves can be eaten, the real thing is the choke.
It’s the small, hairy part of the stem that’s also known as the “heart.” The choke is not consumed in most cases. Artichokes are found primarily in the Mediterranean region and are widely regarded as some of the oldest vegetables in circulation.
There are mentions of the artichoke in Greek mythology as well. Before it can be eaten, the artichoke must be properly cooked before it is consumed. They can be boiled or grilled, or even baked.
Why Are They So Expensive?
The artichoke is a thistle, just like a weed that you would find in your front lawn. However, it’s considerably bigger than your average weed.
In order to grow the artichoke, farmers need to provide at least four feet of growing space. The artichoke plant needs at least five years of growth before it can be harvested, and from each plant, only a handful of artichokes can be harvested (maximum six).
Again, this is only possible with the commercial-sized artichokes. If you were to grow an artichoke in your garden, you’d probably end up with three or four artichokes.
The commercially grown artichokes are usually sold to canning factories, or they are sold as baby artichokes. Obviously, the market for baby artichokes is much smaller than the one for canned ones.
Perhaps the key driver for the high cost of the artichoke is the amount of space that they take. Farmers have to evaluate the opportunity costs of growing artichoke on their lands instead of other crops.
Another factor that also drives up the costs is the storage. From the time that it’s harvested, the artichoke must be consumed within three weeks. Otherwise, it will begin to go bad.
If they begin to deteriorate, they can’t be sold or eaten. This cannot be said for other fruits such as tomatoes or bananas, both of which can be left unripe for quite a long time and then ripened afterwards.
Artichokes must be harvested once a year and they need to be consumed; otherwise, the entire crop will go bad. The low production per acre also drives up the costs.
Artichoke sales actually dropped by 6% in 2019, and the overall market is still quite small. In 2019, they only accounted for $54 million in global sales.
Benefits of Artichokes
Despite their cost, artichokes have a host of health benefits. They contain a bunch of phytonutrients that contain diuretic properties.
They can detoxify the liver and also improve your gallbladder function. They also improve the bile flow, and artichokes have been used in many types of traditional medicine as well to treat a range of liver problems.
On top of that, globe artichokes also contain a large amount of fiber. Soluble fibers not only aid digestion, but they also do not raise blood sugar. There has also been considerable research in the ability of the leaf extract to treat irritable bowel symptoms.
There are many different kinds of artichokes available in the world. The Italian food emporia is costly, but it’s also small. Smaller greengrocers, on the other hand, charge a lesser price but the artichokes are nowhere near the top standard.
These are just some of the reasons why artichokes are so expensive and why they are still considered a luxury food in many parts of the world. You also won’t find them in many small-scale restaurants.