Growing Globe Artichokes

Globe Artichoke

Globe artichokes have a long and fascinating history. They’re believed to be native to the Mediterranean region but initially gained a poor culinary reputation because the ancient Romans used to roast the edible buds on open fires. This charred the outside of the globe and did little to enhance its flavour. Eventually the Romans worked out that artichokes could be preserved in honey and vinegar, which meant they tasted better and were available for eating all year round.

As the centuries passed, globe artichokes gradually spread further afield. In the 16th century Catherine de Medici is said to have introduced them to France when she married King Henry II. French migrants later took artichokes with them to the southern part of the US. In New York in the 1920s, Artichoke Wars, instigated by Mafia bosses who wanted to control distribution and sale of the vegetable, led to a short term ban on the possession and sale of artichokes.

What we call a globe artichoke is actually an unopened bud of a thistle family member and, if left to mature, the bud will expand into a rich, purple, thistle-like flowerhead (pictured). The leaves and stems are a delightful silvery grey. The plants can reach up to more than a metre tall and, because of their striking good looks, are often grown as ornamentals.

Globe artichokes can be started from suckers taken from established plants or by growing them from seed. Artichoke Green Globe is found in Yates seed packet range, and spring is the ideal time to sow the seeds. Start by preparing the garden bed with some organic compost and some Dynamic Lifter pellets. If soil is acidic, it can be helpful to mix in a small amount of Yates Garden Lime before planting.
Sow seeds direct where they are to grow, cover lightly with Yates Seed Raising Mix, firm down and keep moist. Thin seedlings to 60cm apart and feed every two weeks with Thrive Soluble All Purpose or Aquasol.

Like many silver-leafed plants, artichokes do best in areas with low humidity and cool summers. Good drainage is essential. Watering at the base, especially early in the day so the leaves have time to dry before nightfall, will help keep the plants disease free.

Artichokes grow slowly and usually take more than a year to get to cropping stage. As they grow, thin out the shoots to leave only the three or four strongest. If you don’t do this, you’ll end up with a myriad of weak, small heads.

Artichoke plants are classed as perennials. Cut back towards the end of autumn and feed as the new shoots appear. After three or four years the plants will probably be exhausted and should be replaced.

Pick the buds while they are firm but well before they open. Trim, and cook by boiling or steaming for 45 to 60 minutes. Pull individual leaflets off and dip into melted butter or sauce – yumm!


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