The globe artichoke is related to the thistle. Its leaves are eaten, along with the bottom part of the flower, called the heart . Globe artichokes are large, architectural perennial plants, which are grown for their large edible flower buds and are ornamental enough for the flower garden. They can be grown from seed or young plants, are easy to cook, nutritious and are delicious!
Sow from August in pots and plant out from September.
Artichokes love sunshine. The sun’s heat is reflected off of their silver, grey foliage. They tolerate the frost and grow best in cooler parts of the country that have hot, dry summers.
Artichokes have large root systems, and need a large soil volume. They thrive in soil that has plenty of organic material dug deeply into it. Provide lots of nutrition, nourishment and organic material for this large growing perennial. Frequent watering is required to enable the plant to form heavy, solid buds.
Artichokes can be started from seed in a greenhouse or even in a well lit, warm room by the windowsill. Optimal sowing months are August, September and October. Plant a couple of seeds into small pots using a good quality soil-based compost. Give the seeds a further, light covering of compost, then water in well. Water as necessary, but at no time should the compost be left sodden or be allowed to completely dry out. Wait a couple of weeks after germination before removing the weaker artichoke seedlings from each pot.
Artichoke seedlings need lots of nutrients as they develop, so feed them once a week with a good quality liquid plant fertiliser. The seedlings should be about 20 – 25cm tall, with stocky stems and two sets of true leaves. They grow quite large, so ensure that you plant them at least a metre apart into a rich, deep, free-draining soil. For best results place them in a sheltered position where they can receive full sun for most of the day.
Keep a good layer of mulch around the base of your plants and water well during dry periods. Artichokes don’t need a lot of care, once established.
Slugs: will damage the growing tips and defoliate young plants. They are most active at night and after rainfall. If you see evidence of attack, go on a slug hunt and utilize slug control methods.
Aphids: The heads of globe artichokes can become infested. In most cases, the damage can be tolerated.
The biggest mistake that gardeners make when growing artichokes is waiting too long to harvest them. You need to harvest artichokes as soon as the bottom bud scales start peeling away from the bud. The bud will be tight and about the size of a clenched fist. This assures the largest and most tender artichoke hearts and reduces the risk of aphids moving into the buds.
The edible part of a globe artichoke is the ‘unopened’ flower bud in its green form before it bursts into striking purple flower. With regular harvesting, plants will usually continue to produce flowers for about 8 or so weeks. Cut the flowers about 8cm below the head and eat as soon as possible.
Boil or steam immature heads until tender. Drain and remove the leaf scales one by one. Dip them in melted butter, vinaigrette or Hollandaise sauce and then suck out the juicy flesh from each scale. Finish off with the succulent base. Mature flowers take longer to cook and are less flavoursome, but can be cooked and consumed in the same way. Delicious!
Artichokes are reported to contain the highest level of antioxidants of all vegetables! They are a rich source of dietary fiber and an excellent source of vitamin C, Folic Acid and vitamin K. Furthermore, artichokes are a rich in minerals like copper, calcium, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus.
Globe artichokes contain a number of phytonutrients, such as apigenin, cynarin, silymarin and luteolin. These appear to have diuretic properties and accordingly, assist with detoxifying the liver, boosting gall bladder function and improving bile flow. They are widely used in traditional medicine as a remedy for water retention and liver ailments. It is thought that they may aid digestion and stomach acidity. Globe artichokes also contain a lot of soluble fibre, so they won’t destabilise blood sugar levels.
SHAVED ARTICHOKE AND PARMESAN SALAD
- 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice + 1/2 lemon (you’ll need about 1 + a half lemons)
- 1/4 of a teaspoon of coarse salt or sea salt
- 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon
- 2 medium artichokes
- Freshly ground pepper
- 3/4 of a cup of loosely packed, fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 225g parmesan cheese, cut into small chunks
- Flatbread or crackers, for serving
Whisk together the oil, lemon juice and salt in a bowl and then set it aside. Working with one artichoke at a time, snap off tough outer leaves until the half-green-half-yellow leaves are exposed. Using a sharp knife, cut off the dark-green top until just the pale section remains. Using a paring knife, peel the dark-green layer from base and stem. Trim the stem. Scrape out purple leaves and fuzzy choke using a spoon, and discard. Halve the artichoke lengthwise. Rub the artichoke with 1/2 a lemon as you work. Using a mandoline, cut the artichoke heart into paper-thin slices, and add to lemon-oil mixture; toss.
DID YOU KNOW: The artichoke is technically a flower bud that has not yet bloomed.