Artichoke seeds are easy to grow! Brought to North America by Italian immigrants, the artichoke grows wild in the south of Europe but is cultivated in North America. An artichoke is a big thistle plant, native to the Mediterranean. The leaves proceed from the base of the stem and are long and somewhat spiny. The stem is up to 1 m (3 ft) high, branched, with large heads of violet-colored (sometimes white), thistle-like flowers at the summits of the branches. The thickened receptacle (heart) and fleshy bases of the scales (leaves) of the immature flower are the portions eaten. Requiring little preparation when cooking, simply stand artichokes upright in an artichoke steamer or in the base of a pot, boil or steam until a fork can penetrate the base. Serve with butter or a favorite sauce – a delight for early autumn meals. Artichokes are low in calories, high in minerals and folic acid, and good for digestion. The artichoke belongs to the family Asteraceae (formerly Compositae). It is classified as Cynara scolymus.