Artichoke Basketball

By Casey Seidenberg

We have basketball on the brain. Yes, I know the basketball season is almost over and Stanley Cup hockey has been all the talk in Washington. Even baseball is getting more play than hoops this time of year. But ours isn’t your average game of basketball. It includes two artichokes, a dinner table, unusually relaxed table rules and a lot of laughs.

Years ago, in an effort to introduce new foods to my sporty boys, I told them they could play basketball with every artichoke leaf they ate. (I warned you the table rules were relaxed!) I taught them how to pull a leaf from the bottom of the steamed artichoke, scrape their teeth along the soft edge to get the meat and then discard the remainder of the leaf. I put a big bowl at the end of the table and let them have at it. They were young enough that they missed often, so the floor was littered with half-eaten leaves, but they laughed hysterically, devoured two large artichokes, claimed it was the best meal ever and have loved the vegetable ever since.

Spring is artichoke season. As with many spring vegetables, artichokes are naturally detoxifying, supporting our liver function and thus helping our bodies flush the toxins that have accumulated over winter. According to Ayurveda, a traditional method of healing, detoxification helps fend off seasonal allergies.

For your color commentary around the table, here are additional stats on the delicious green vegetable:

  • It is full of fiber, protein, magnesium, potassium and folate.
  • It has been shown to ease digestive stress such as nausea, bloating and pain.
  • Egyptians called the artichoke a food for the rich because the leaves contain an acid that helps to break down rich, fatty foods and alcohol.
  • It is full of disease-fighting antioxidants.

So relax the table rules for a few nights and fire up a basketball bracket to see which family member can three-point the most artichoke leaves. Dinners are bound to be action-packed, and ones your kids will remember.

First published in the Washington Post on Thursday, May 3, 2012.