Artichokes, or rather the globe artichoke is a thistle-like perennial that originated around the Mediterranean. It is a rather big but beautiful, architectural, ornamental plant / vegetable / flower and as such an asset to most home or even backyard gardens, regardless of the type of garden where it is planted and cultivated. Big because it can grow up to 2 meters tall, i.e. 3 to 4 feet tall. The leaves are arched, lobed and can be up to 90 cm long, i.e. between 1 and 2 feet. The plant itself grows quite wide as well so be sure to give the Artichoke sufficient space to grow to its full potential.
The flowerbuds of the artichoke are the actual edible parts which have a delicious, delicate flavor and are thus considered a gourmet vegetable. The flowers buds that forms develop approximately to about 8 – 15 cm in diameter with several triangular scales.
There are several varieties of globe artichokes that can successfully be cultivated in home gardens.
There are the green globe artichokes:
And there are the purple globe artichokes:
And of course the Spined Globe Artichoke:
If you are into healthy eating, trimming down, dieting, then Globe artichokes should be a must on your list of food. Globe artichokes are low in fat and loaded with fibre. It has a lovely, delicate, buttery flavour that makes it a slimmer's delight.
Not only do globe artichokes taste great, it is also of great value to your digestive tract. Due to the Globe Artichokes' fibre content, it acts as a laxative; it absorbs water and creates bulk to move 'unwanted' things along in your digestive tract. Globe artichokes also act as a source of folic acid which is an essential element in absorbing iron in the blood stream. This is important for women especially in times of pregnancy, as well as decreasing the risk of developing heart disease.
There is no cholesterol or saturated fats in globe artichokes. Globe artichokes can be considered a carbohydrate and a protein that has vitamin C, Dietary fibre, sodium, Folic acid, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Potassium as well as carrotenoids.
First and foremost, your soil preparation is of the utmost importance. Since Globe Artichokes are sun-loving plants you should plant them in a sunny spot with well-drained fertile garden soil. Though the spot that you choose to grow your globe artichokes should be open and sunny it does not mean exposed. Globe artichokes do not like frost or snow. In fact you should only consider growing globe artichokes if the area you live in enjoys a long, frost-free season with damp weather. Globe artichokes would even be more of a benefit at the back of a border due to its architectural, ornamental looks.
A whole load of special care and mulching would be of great value to successfully cultivating your globe artichokes.
If you are already making your own compost then growing globe artichokes organically should not be a problem.
Dig the planting site thoroughly, incorporating plenty of well rotted manure or compost and apply a dressing of general fertilizer such as blood- or bone meal or manure before planting. Thoroughly rake in the compost, or type of fertilizer into the garden soil to spread the nutrients evenly for the plant.
The best conditions to grow Globe artichokes would be in full sunlight and a rich, well-drained garden soil that will hold moisture.
If you intend growing Globe Artichokes from seed then our sowing guide should provide you with the most appropriate times when sowing should occur. When deciding to grow globe artichokes from seed then you should consider yourself advised of the following aspects.
If you are starting out a new crop, or indeed your very first home-grown crop of globe artichokes then it is best to start with offshoots or suckers from a reputable nursery or garden center.
You should dig a hole in your prepared garden bed that is bigger than the sucker.
Then you should plant the sucker so that the soil mark on the stem corresponds to the depth of the hole.
Then you should fill the hole with soil, secure the plant firmly and water well.
If you would like more than one plant, then it is always a good idea to grow globe artichokes in groups in the home garden. Then the artichoke plants should be planted 60 cm (or 2 feet) apart and in rows that are 75cm (2,5 feet) apart. These measurements would work well for a medium sized globe artichoke plant. The bigger varieties should preferably be planted with a space of at least 1m (3 feet) each way.
But since these plants can produce anywhere between 12 and 24 flower heads per plant, per season, you should really limit yourself to the amount that would be sufficient for you and your family.
After you have successfully grown, and cultivated your first globe artichokes then you should start thinking of harvesting, not only the flower heads, but also suckers for your crops in seasons to follow.
You should take rooted suckers in spring. (Suckers are also known as offsets.) Globe artichoke suckers can be planted out in between February and April (or between July and September if you are in the southern hemisphere.)
During the first season:
In the second growth season:
In the third growth season:
It takes about 50 to 100 days from globe artichoke plants that grows from suckers to harvesting time. That means anytime up to 9 months before you can eat a fresh globe artichoke that has been cultivated in your home garden.
If you happen to grow your globe artichokes from seed, then you will only see the first buds after about a year of growth.
Interestingly enough, you can harvest globe artichokes at various stages. Under usual circumstances the globe artichokes can be cut off when the heads are plump and the scales are still soft and green. In other words, just before the globe artichoke flower opens. The peak season for artichoke harvesting is the spring, but they continue to be harvested throughout the summer, with another peak period in mid autumn. You will also notice that your mature plants, the plants that are in its second season of growth, you can harvest your globe artichokes in early summer and the younger plants that are at harvesting stage can be harvested in late summer.
When harvesting you not only get to enjoy the fruits of your labor, you also stimulate secondary growth in your globe artichoke which might result in harvesting a second crop.
Always harvest globe artichokes when the flower heads are heavy with a soft green color. The flower head should be tightly packed with closed leaves. Flavor is signaled by the color that can be seen on the leaf tips. A bronzed or frosted leaf tip will indicate a delicate flavor. Stay away from wilted and mouldy leaves.
You can store your globe artichokes in your refrigerator in a plastic bag, though it is better to use them fresh. When storing your globe artichokes for later use you should make sure that it does not dry out. (TIP: Add a few drops of water to the globe artichokes in the plastic bag and DO NOT wash the artichokes when it is to be stored.)
Cut off the heads with approximately 5-8 cm, i.e. 2-3 inches of the stem to harvest your globe artichokes. You could even be so bold as to snip the flower head off at the base of the plants if there are no secondary buds on the plant itself.
Wash the globe artichokes under running water.
Pull off the outer, lower petals and trim off the spikes at the end of the scales or outer leaves. Some globe artichokes may even have some spikes on the ends of the scales. The trimming off of the spikes can be as much as about a quarter of the scale. This will take care of the spikes and will then not interfere with handling the leaves when eating your globe artichokes.
Boil the artichokes in water (you may add salt if you so desire.) standing in an upright position in a saucepan for between 20 and 40 minutes. Or you could also steam the artichokes. The artichoke boiling is done when you are able to pull the center petal out with no fuss. At this stage the globe artichoke is tender. If you cover your pot while boiling your globe artichokes, your artichokes may turn brown due to the acids and the chlorophyll that will be oxidized. (TIP: Do NOT cover the pot while boiling the globe artichokes. This will facilitate the acids to boil out into the air.)
Artichokes can then be served, either hot, at room temperature or even cold. Artichokes make excellent appetizers. They taste very good in a variety of dips and sauces. You do not even have to be very adventurous as they will also taste great in plain lemon juice or even olive oil.
If you do not intend boiling your globe artichokes immediately, you can also place them in some vinegary water or even lemony water to prevent discoloration.