It's no secret that I am a California girl, at heart, embracing my (cold) life in New England! Ha ha!! When I was a kid in California, artichokes were normal fare at our dinner table. We had an artichoke plant in our backyard, for goodness sake! California artichokes always remind me of spring, and my childhood. They are all over menus and stores right now, so give them a try if they aren't in your regular rotation.
My kids initially balked at the idea that they would eat those thistle leaves, but after they saw the process, they were intrigued. And soon, they were all in. Here are five reasons (which may surprise you) why artichokes make a GREAT kid food (and food for parents as well)!
1.) They are a project to eat, which kids love!
- Pluck. Dip. Chomp. Repeat!
2.) They are a finger food!
- No utensils allowed for this one. Kids, did you hear that?
3.) They are a vessel for dip, dip, dipping!
- Everyone in our family dips them in something different. I'm a hummus girl, hubby uses olive oil and vinegar, Moe's all about butter, and Miff loves her Earth Balance.
- As a certified feeding therapist, a strategy we use in feeding therapy is taking an uncomfortable food and having kids lick off a yummy dip (getting a subtle taste of the “scary” food). You can try this at your table, and see if your kids will gradually accept these, if they are squeamish at the get-go.
- Host a family taste test and try our dips above, or guacamole, ranch, black bean hummus, yogurt dill sauce, or mayonnaise – there is no right answer here! Have one of the kids be the recorder to tally up which dip is the winner!
4.) Kids can make all sorts of funky teeth marks at the family dinner table and not get in trouble!
- Car tracks, shark bites, mouse nibbles…what else can they think of to imprint in those little leaf edges?
- Don’t tell them, but this is another feeding therapy strategy – having kids interact with an unfamiliar food in a fun, non-threatening way! (Just don't pressure them to eat it, or the strategy fails. They will get there if they do it on their own terms.)
5.) Artichokes are nutrition powerhouses!
- Cooked artichokes have more antioxidants than any other vegetable ! (They are notable in Cynarin and Silymarin, antioxidants thought to promote liver health). (1)
- They are low in calories (only 25 calories in a large artichoke) (1)
- Artichokes are a good source of fiber (6g of fiber per artichoke), which is 25% of the daily recommended amount for women. (1)
- They are a good source of vitamin C, folate and magnesium. (1)
Steamed Artichokes (Serves 4-6)
4 medium artichokes
1 lemon, sliced
1. In a large pot, fill half-way with water and bring to a boil.
2. Meanwhile trim artichokes. Using a serrated knife, carefully cut off the top of artichoke, including thorn part of leaves. I also use kitchen shears to trim any leaves with prickles on them. Cut the stem shorter, and pull off any small leaves at the base.
4. Place artichokes stem down in basket and turn down heat to simmer. Add slices of lemon to top of artichokes. Cover.
5. Steam until outer leaves pull off easily, about 20-40 minutes depending on artichokes size. They are finished when outer leaves come off easily. Let cool, and serve with dips of your choice.
6. The leaves and heart are edible; the thin, less meaty purplish leaves and choke (hairy center) are not.
If all else fails, they turn into beautiful purple flowers (not edible)!