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The artichoke, an edible flower bud of Mediterranean origin, is a featured component of this month’s M.S.A. Gourmet Pizza from your favorite Pizza of the Month Club. Oddly, it’s a member of the thistle family (Asteraceae), a kinship made believable by the usually discarded “hairy” part found above the center core known as the artichoke “heart”.

This vegetable was well-known to the ancient Greeks and Romans, and was widely used for centuries for its medicinal qualities and health benefits. The juice of the leaves is a powerful kidney stimulant (a natural diuretic), and was used to treat liver ailments and dropsy. In days past, the artichoke was used to treat (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) anemia, excessive acidity, diarrhea, rheumatism, halitosis, obesity, neuritis and glandular disorders.

Today we know that antioxidant rich artichokes are low in calories and fat, and are a rich source of dietary fiber, known to decrease bad (LDL) cholesterol by binding to the intestines, thus lessening the risk for colon cancer.

Fresh artichoke is a great source of folic acid; vitamins B-complex, C and K; and antioxidant compounds such as silymarin, caffeic and ferulic acid. Beef up your levels of copper, calcium, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus by enjoying this up-and-coming veggie favorite.

Globe artichoke plants can grow up to 78 inches tall, with arched silvery-green leaves reaching a length of 20 inches. If undisturbed, beautiful flowers (pink or purple in color) will develop, forming a large head from the edible buds. Each bud is made up of triangular scales that are compactly arranged in a circular pattern around the center, called the “choke.” Mature artichokes are inedible.

#1 AARON’S BBQ PORK GOURMET PIZZA

Aaron’s mom is very proud of her son’s finger-lickin’ spiced barbecued pork, red onion and mozzarella pizza. She swears he developed the BBQ sauce all on his own (using Worcestershire, white vinegar, lemon juice, molasses, Tobasco, onions, and his secret spices), but says he DID make a mess of her kitchen!

#2 MEATY GOURMET PIZZA

Meat lovers, line up! There’s loads of spiced ground beef, spiced pork sausage and bacon, plus everybody’s favorite pizza cheese, mozzarella. The meat flavors share the stage with everybody’s favorite, Club’s signature perfectly-spiced tomato sauce.

#3 M.S.A. GOURMET PIZZA

A brand new offering from your favorite Pizza of the Month Club, our M (mushroom), S (spinach), A (artichoke) creation (with mozzarella, too) is deliciously different. You’ll find the spinach integrated into the dough, topped with mushrooms and artichokes. Our unique Pesto sauce is made with olive oil, fresh basil, Romano and pine nuts!

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Tracie Burket
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