Globe artichokes (Cynara cardunculus), also known as French artichokes or green artichokes are a luxury vegetable that is often difficult to find in the shops. They are a pleasure to grow and also make attractive ornamental plants in the herbaceous border. Similar to a large thistle, they have attractive silvery/green leaves and grow to approximately 4ft (1.2m) in height.
Soil Type: Well drained, fertile, moisture retentive soil.
Conditions: Full sun.
Ease of Cultivation: Moderate.
Type: Flower and Bud Vegetable.
When to Plant: Spring
Harvest Season: June to July
Offsets can be purchased for planting in spring. Plant out around the beginning of April, spacing them 3ft (1m) apart. Once established they will start to produce heads around June-July. Approximate yield per mature plant is 10 to 12 heads.
Artichokes need a good fertile soil in a sunny sheltered spot. Incorporate plenty of organic matter before planting to retain moisture and provide nutrients.
The plants have a productive life of four to six
years and take approximately one to two years to reach
maturity. Remove all the small flower heads in the
first year to build up strength for the following year.
Propagation is mainly by root division or from rooted suckers or offsets.
Seed can also be sown under cover from February to March in a greenhouse or cold frame. They can also be sown directly into a nursery bed in April. Thin the plants to 3ft (1m) apart. Only use certified commercial seed, as saved seed doesn't usually come true and often produces unreliable results.
Keep weed-free and well watered. Feed every few weeks during the growing season. Stake in summer where necessary.
In the late autumn, cut down the foliage and mulch the crowns to protect them over winter.
Mulch with well rotted manure or garden compost in the spring.
In colder regions, protect the crowns with a layer of straw or similar organic insulation material.
Usually problem free but can be susceptible to attack by aphids, blackfly and slugs.
The flower-heads should be picked as young buds, when half-grown and still closed. Once the flowers begin to open they are virtually inedible, so keep a regular eye on them. Cut with a short amount of stalk attached.
Once harvested, reduce the stem by half. Further smaller heads may then develop from side shoots.
Cut the stalk off from the head, remove the outer layer of scales, plus any damaged scales and trim the points off the remaining scales with sharp scissors. Remove the central inedible hairy choke.
Rinse and drain. Boil in lightly salted water for 30-40 minutes until tender. Eat only the fleshy base of the scales with a dressing of melted butter or dipping sauce. The central heart can also be eaten with a spoon.
Alternatively, remove all scales, scrape away the hairs to expose the heart and boil for 15-20 minutes. The heart can also be sliced and fried.
The tasty hearts can also be pickled.
Artichoke buds are low in fat but high in fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They are particularly high in vitamin C and K.
Globe artichoke plants are only available for purchase in the spring.
Artichoke 'Green Globe Improved' is more reliable that its parent and bears larger, heavier, and more consistent quality heads. Height to 70in (180cm), spread to 30in (75cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.
Artichoke 'Imperial Star' a fast maturing variety produces a good crop of large hearty buds. Hardy and more cold tolerant that other varieties. Available at Thompson & Morgan.
Artichoke 'Italian Purple' a succulent and colourful variety that also looks great in the borders. Available at Thompson & Morgan.
Artichoke 'Purple Globe' an ornamental form that produces smallish globes in early summer with good flavour.
Artichoke 'Romanesco' a vigourous variety that produces rounded purple-tinted heads, that are tight and firm.