Kitchen garden Artichoke
Though globe artichokes are simple to grow, preparing them for the table involves that rarest of modern commodities - time.
But if you’ve ever eaten freshly cooked artichokes you know the several processes involved amount to small effort for delicious reward.
Photo - Bobkeenan Photography / shutterstock
Artichokes are actually oversized thistles, so on looks alone you’d think them tough plants, well-adapted to poor soils and drought. Don’t be fooled by the silvery foliage. While artichokes can handle hot weather, they need good soil and plenty of moisture to really thrive.
I treat my artichokes like other edible perennials. Before planting I facilitate drainage and enrich my soil with compost or rotted manure and sweeten things up a bit by applying woodash at a rate of a double handful per square metre. (Don’t do this if your soil is already alkaline). Plants can be started from seed or divisions. The former will produce edible flower buds in their second summer from planting, while divisions will usually bear in their first year.
Use secateurs to cut fat, but unopened flower buds and about 10cm of stalk. To prepare them for dinner, trim the stem to about 5cm, take a few centimetres off the top of the globe and remove the leathery, outer ‘scales’. Cut the artichoke in half, and in mature buds scoop out the choke, which is the silky flower part. In young buds this is unnecessary. Next plunge the artichoke into lemon water to stop it oxidising. Once prepared, boil in lightly salted water until tender, and enjoy!
The plants are pest and disease resistant. Heavy frost will cause the foliage to die back to the ground; new shoots will appear in spring.
Give the plants adequate moisture during summer, and apply mulch to reduce evaporation from the soil.
‘Violetta’ - Italian heirloom with beautiful purple flower buds.
‘Imperial Star’ - recently introduced dwarf variety bearing plump flower buds in the same year that it is started from seed.
‘Green Globe’ – the standard green variety, growing up to 2m tall and bearing heavy crops.