Photo - Sandra Ross
Globe artichokes look good in the garden, taste great at the table and improve things in the bedroom! Or so they say. Libby Cameron turns the light on globe artichokes.
Fabulously large and decorative, the plant of the globe artichoke is as exotic as the tasty vegetable it produces.
Legend has it that a jealous god once converted a beautiful woman into a thistle – globe artichokes belong to the milk thistle family – so ever since, globe artichokes have been thought to boast aphrodisiac qualities! They are easily grown from seed, suckers or shoots in your back garden and will fare well if you feed and water them conscientiously.
Globe artichokes are produced on tall plants, up to about 1.5m x 1m wide, so can take up a fair bit of space in the garden. They are best left undisturbed for three to four years, so a background position in a well-prepared bed is the ideal place to grow them.
Globe artichokes prefer a light, free-draining soil. Before planting, add lashings of manure or compost to the bed in order to improve soil fertility and water holding capacity.
When buying globe artichoke seeds from your nursery, look for 'Violetto', a variety with purple globes – it has excellent flavour. Three or four plants provide enough globes for the average family, grown from seed sown in spring or from suckers or shoots planted in autumn or winter. At planting time, spread a handful of fertiliser around each plant, then water in well and mulch to retain moisture.
The part that is eaten is the flower bud, which should be harvested when 5–10cm in diameter. They are most tender while still young and quite tightly structured. If you want larger buds, prune out lateral buds when they reach the size of a golf ball. Each plant will continue to produce buds through spring. After harvest, keep the plants watered and mulched through summer. You may leave a few buds to produce flowers as they are attractive to the bees, which will pollinate the other vegies in your patch. In autumn, reduce the plants to about 30cm and spread a layer of compost or manure around their base. In winter, cut plants back to three or four strong shoots. After three or four years, plants need to be refreshed - dig them up, divide and replant several strong suckers into prepared soil.
Photo - Lori Martin/Shutterstock.com
Pests and diseases
Globe artichokes are not troubled by many pests and diseases. Minor attack by aphids may be treated with Confidor or Pestoil. Flowers may open prematurely in hot, dry conditions, reducing the quality of the edible buds.
Tips and Tricks
- The leaves of fresh artichokes will squeak when rubbed together. This is a great way to test for quality. A good quality artichoke may be large or small, but will feel heavy for its size.
- Fresh unwashed artichokes will keep for about a week in a plastic bag in the fridge. If you have harvested more than you can eat, give them away, or freeze them after cooking. To freeze cooked artichokes, drain them well, wrap tightly with foil and pack them in an airtight container. They will keep for up to six months.
- Always use a stainless steel knife for preparing artichokes and apply a little lemon juice to cut surfaces to prevent discolouration of trimmed artichokes before cooking. Discolouration may also occur if you use cast iron or aluminium saucepans.