Serves 4 / Enjoy this treat when artichokes are in peak season, March through May. The vegetable is a good source of natural antioxidants, such as vitamin C and flavones. Artichokes also contain a fair amount of iron, potassium, magnesium, folate, and fiber. Before you go straight for the “heart,” be sure to nibble on a few leaves: Extracts made from artichoke leaves help regulate bile flow, liver function, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and help relieve irritable bowel syndrome.

4 medium artichokes
1 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon olive oil
Boiling water
1 teaspoon sea salt

1. Wash artichokes and cut off stems, flush with the base. Slice 1/2 inch off the top of each artichoke. Remove small bottom leaves and trim sharp tips of remaining leaves with scissors. Gently pry larger leaves slightly away from artichoke center, if necessary, for filling.

2. Combine rice, walnuts, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and olive oil and toss well. Divide mixture into fourths and spoon into artichokes, tucking filling between leaves.

3. Stand artichokes upright in a deep saucepan large enough to hold all four snugly. Pour boiling water around (not over) artichokes, to a depth of 1 inch. Sprinkle salt in water. Cover and boil gently 35–45 minutes or until base of artichokes can be pierced easily with a fork.

Functional Kitchen is provided by James Rouse, ND, the creator of Optimum Wellness and The Fit Kitchen, which is seen weekly on NBC’s KUSA television news.