Artichoke


(Genus: Cynara [cardunculus subsp.] Scolymus - Family: Asteraceae)

Artichoke and its origins
Dating back to the early Greeks and Romans in its wild form, the Artichoke is a perennial herb of Mediterranean origin.  Its domestication from the wild progenitor (Cynara cardunculus) to its current species (Cynara scolymus), was first documented in Sicily in the first century.

Grown for both their decorative and edible qualities, Artichokes produce large, edible flowers buds that are harvested before they reach maturity to be used in cooking.

How to Plant Artichoke

An artichoke will thrive in a mild and dry climate but it is a hardy plant and can easily adapt to colder conditions.  It is sensitive to frosts and temperature fluctuations and in its infancy will require protection to aid its growth.

Whilst it is possible to grow from seed, the final crop can be small, spiny and variable, therefore, it is not recommended.  Artichokes grown from seed can be planted directly outdoors in May, when there is no longer a threat of frost.
More commonly, artichokes are grown from “Suckers” which are new shoots growing directly from the plant’s main root.  Suckers typically have at least 4 leaves, a small section of stem and buds called “ova”.  

Suckers should appear in April or alternatively, from September to November.  The ova will make their appearance in June and will continue to appear until August.  

Suckers should be planted in holes that are both 30cm in diameter and 30cm deep.  They should be planted in rows and given plenty of space to grow with at least 1m between the rows.
An artichoke should be planted in a well-drained soil that has a slightly acidic PH, although they do tolerate most soil types.  It should be well fertilised using xxxxxxxxxxxx  xxxxxxxxxx (50g/m²) and, as it is a perennial plant, follow-up in year two when the new foliage appears with 40g/m² of fertiliser. 

When the flowers begin to bloom, distribute another 50g/m² xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.  After harvesting, fertilise twice, 3-4 weeks apart with xxg/m² of the same product. Alternatively, when foliage appears, use xxx-xxxg/m² of xxxxxxxxxxxxxx immediate-release fertiliser.

Water regularly, particularly after transplanting the suckers and avoid wetting the leaves, as they are easily damaged.
Once planted an artichoke plant can produce flowers for 10-15 years but to achieve the tastiest crop, renew it at least every 3-4 years, if not on an annual basis.
Before winter, cut the stems down to the soil bed and then cover in mulch for protection.

When to harvest Artichoke
Artichoke leaves are large, green and shiny or can have a grey-green appearance; all are thorny and finish in a sharp point.  The plant can reach up to 1.5m in height.  If left to mature, it will produce a flower, however, the bud itself is harvested before it reaches this point.
Harvest the artichokes before the large buds fully mature; they should be green and still tightly closed for the best tasting.  To ensure longevity once harvested, cut the flower heads with at least 25cm of stem intact.  

 

Diseases and pests affecting Artichoke growth

  • Aphids
  • Black cutworm
  • Leafminer
  • Depressaria
  • Cassida and mites
  • Powdery mildew
  • Downy mildew
  • Bacteria

 

Did you know
California is considered the spiritual home of the artichoke and in 1949, Marilyn Monroe was the first elected “Queen of the Artichoke” at the Artichoke Festival held annually in Castroville, California which considers itself the “Artichoke capital of the World”.  

Its name is believed to originate from Cynara, a beautiful girl with ashen coloured hair, who would not be seduced by Jupiter and as a punishment, was turned into a thorny plant.   

It is a low- calorie food, used widely in cooking and salads, it is perfect for those on calorie-controlled diets.  Artichokes decrease the production of endogenous cholesterol and triglycerides.

A bitter drink can be made from Artichoke leaves which is both a digestive and liver cleanser.

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