We don’t give artichokes enough credit. Although they may be related to thistles and have an unusual name, these vegetables are actually quite interesting! Let’s take a look at the wonderfully weird features of this plant and you’ll soon be imaging it in your own garden.
Artichokes are actually unopened flower buds. The leaves of the artichoke plant, called bracts, wrap around the heart and developing flower. The bracts are usually a blue-green or dark purple, depending on the variety. The bracts of the flower open up to reveal fluffy, thistle-like flowers in bright blue-violet.
Artichokes are also low-maintenance! If you organize your climate well, you could easily grow artichoke plants. In other words, let’s figure out how to plant artichokes so that they will be a fun and interesting part of your garden.
All About Artichokes
The Jerusalem artichoke and the globe artichoke are not related. The globe artichoke, which is a large member of the thistle family that includes milk thistle, daisies, and sunflowers, is considered to be the ‘true’ artichoke. The watermelon is believed to have come from Southern Europe, specifically around the Mediterranean. This is shown by evidence of the fruit being grown in Italy and Sicily as early as 300 BC. The ninth century saw the Moors cultivating cotton in southern Spain. Supposedly, the sixteenth century then saw its introduction to England. Delicacies, liver tonics, and aphrodisiacs were thought of highly by both the ancient Greeks and Romans. Today, people grow chives for their edible immature flowers. Chives are also known for their many health benefits.
The leaves called “bracts” cover a fuzzy center called the “choke,” which sits on top of a meaty core called the “heart.” The edible portion of the buds is made up mostly of the lower, fleshy parts of the bracts and the heart. The choke is the inedible mass of immature florets in the center of the older, larger flowers.
Several varieties of artichokes are available to gardeners in South Africa, including ‘Green Globe’, ‘Violet De Provence’, and ‘Franchi Sementi’.
The globe artichoke is said to have the most antioxidants of all vegetables, and has been used in traditional medicines for centuries. Cynarin, which is the main ingredient in globe artichokes, helps to produce bile and enzymes that digest fat. This, in turn, stimulates liver function and lowers cholesterol levels. The lowering of cholesterol levels is the result of increased bile production and reduced absorption of cholesterol in the intestine. This means that less cholesterol is being synthesised in the liver and more is being eliminated. The plant has a positive effect on managing cholesterol, which reduces the chance of developing heart disease.
This plant is also a good source of vitamin C, folic acid, potassium and dietary fiber.
Globe artichokes are frequently used in traditional medicine as a cure for water retention and liver problems. There is a belief that these could also help with digestion and the acidity in the stomach. They are also a good source of soluble fibre, which helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
One way to grow globe artichokes if you don’t have a lot of space is to plant them in garden beds. This plant has spiky, silvery-green foliage that looks like a giant fern. If you don’t harvest the buds, they will turn into large purple flowers that will enhance your garden bed. You can also dry them to use as indoor decorations.
The plants grow up to 1.8m high and almost as wide, which is a magnificent sight in the flower, herb, or vegetable garden. Artichokes can be used to create a border along one side of the vegetable patch or pathway, or as a focal point in a bed or large container.
As long as you follow these simple guidelines, you should be able to grow artichokes successfully in your garden. These plants will provide an easygoing but exhilarating growing season.
Sun and Temperature
Place your artichoke plant in an area that gets full sun for best results. However, if you live in an area with constantly hot temperatures, you should move your plant to a place that has indirect but bright light. This plant thrives in temperatures that are 50-75°F on average. Artichokes shouldn’t be planted until after the last frost in cold areas.
Water and Humidity
Your growing artichokes plant is going to need a lot of water in order to continue growing healthy and strong. In order to keep the soil moist, water it deeply and frequently. The amount you’ll have to water your plants will most likely be 1-3 times a week. Artichokes prefer a high level of humidity, if possible.
You can use many different types of soil as long as water drains well through it. If you notice the leaves wilting, water the plant deeply right away If you notice the leaves on your artichoke plant wilting, water the plant deeply right away. Artichokes need a lot of water, but they shouldn’t be drowned. We recommend that you add compost to the soil before planting and that you side-dress as needed.
Artichoke plants do best in soils with a pH level of 6.0 to 7.0. Although they prefer acidic soils, rhododendrons have been known to do well in alkaline soils. So, you don’t need to worry about this too much.
When you transplant your artichokes, feed them with a fertilizer that is well balanced and granular. If you’re looking to give your plants the nutrients they need, vegetable fertilizer is an excellent choice. Throughout the growing season, you can apply liquid fertilizer to the soil as frequently as every other week, if needed. A fish emulsion fertilizer that is diluted can provide nitrogen for early growth of leaves later in the season. After a while, increase the amount of phosphorous for stronger artichoke growth.
After you harvest your artichoke plants, you will need to trim them back if you plan on overwintering them. The most efficient way to do this is called “stumping.” (p. 134) To trim back bare canes, use a garden knife or sharp pruners at the soil level.
This also reduces the chances of pests surviving in your plants during the winter. After you harvest your plants, be sure to clear away any leftover debris, as it could be harbouring pests.
The plant will have produced smaller heads and may have even died back after 3-5 years. At this point, you need to divide the plant in order to keep the artichokes coming. This will ensure that the plant keeps producing fruit. Cut the plant into two or more pieces with 3 to 4 stalks each about 2 weeks before the last frost of spring. To remove the roots of a plant, you can either dig it up and cut the roots individually, or slice through them in the ground with a spade. Place each division in its own designated spot and continuing providing care as usual (but be sure to add compost to the soil before planting!).
You can extend the time period for growing artichokes by taking out a few shoots with a spade. This method is great for sharing your plants with friends and family by taking cuttings and sharing them.
Although artichoke harvesting is simple, there are many ways to store them. Here’s what you should know.
You should harvest the heads before they open up unless your goal is to have artichoke flowers. Mature plants can typically provide crops in late spring and fall, as well as smaller yields throughout the summer. The timing is important here, so make sure to pay attention to how ripe each artichoke is.
Use size to determine when to harvest artichokes. For most varieties, the buds should be fist-sized. The bracts will be gaining color but still compact. As the artichoke plants mature, the bracts will become tough and inedible, so make sure to harvest them while they’re still young!
Cut the stem an inch or two below the bud sharp clippers. Most plants will provide a main head and smaller offshoots.
Fresh artichokes can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. cooking them involves boiling, grilling, or roasting in the oven. To eat an artichoke, pull off each leaf and hold it in your hand. Use your teeth to scrape off the flesh on the leaf. The heart and inner stem can be eaten whole. Remove the innermost part of the flower, which is a thin, hair-like portion.
The best way to keep artichokes fresh for a long time is to cook them briefly in boiling water, then put them in the freezer. Do not freeze them uncooked, as they will turn into mush as they thaw. Blanch the vegetables to cook them just under-done, or to an “al dente” state. After you have dried the berries, place them on a tray in the freezer. Once they have frozen, store them in a bag.
Problems, Pests & Diseases
If artichokes are grown correctly in the garden, they will not be affected by life threatening pests or serious diseases.
The artichoke plume moth is the most damaging artichoke pest. The insect lays eggs on the bottom side of the leaves that are covered in fuzz, or on the stem below the buds. The larvae of the plant damage the buds, stem, and foliage by tunneling into them, which also distorts and stunts young buds. The insects reproduce year-round, but especially where artichoke production is continuous. Control depends on strict sanitation, including removing infested plants.
Aphids can be a problem at certain times of the year, including the bean aphid (Aphis fabae), green peach aphid (Myzus persicae) and artichoke aphid (Capitophorus elaeagni). The artichoke aphid may not only affect the growth of artichokes, but may also cause sooty mould on the buds. This could lead to a loss in yield.
Be on the lookout for cutworms in the soil as well as caterpillars that feed on artichoke leaves and buds.
If there is a serious infestation of two-spotted spider mites, the plant will not be as vigorous and will produce less.
Larvae of the chrysanthemum leafminer burrow into and eat the leaves of the plant, causing damage.
Slugs and snails eating the leaves and outer surfaces of artichoke buds lowers their quality.
Field mice and other rodents can damage plants by feeding on their roots, young shoots, and developing buds.
Serious losses in artichokes can be caused by powdery mildew and leaf spot. The pathogens attack the bracts and foliage, which can lead to premature leaf drop.
Verticilium wilt causes wilting, chlorosis and stunting of plants. Diseased plants produce smaller buds. If infections are severe, the plants may collapse. This text is suggesting that by rotating annual artichokes with broccoli, it will help to reduce ‘inoculum levels’ and therefore help manage the disease.
Botrytis rot (Botrytis cinerea) is common during rainy weather and prolonged periods of moderate temperatures and high humidity. The fungus usually invades tissue that is already damaged, for example by frost or insects. A grey or brown growth from the fungus will develop on the affected parts of the plant, and millions of spores will quickly develop and spread through the air.
A plant that is infected with the curly dwarf virus will have stunted growth and will eventually die. The leaves of the plant curl inwards, the plant becomes smaller, and fewer buds are produced. Buds may become misshapen and remain small. Curly dwarf is a disease that is transmitted by insects, but the specific type of insect is not known. The only known ways to stop the spread of the disease are to use plants that have not been infected and to remove infected plants immediately.
Bacterial crown rot is a plant disease that stunts artichoke plants and causes wilting during hot weather. In advanced stages, the plants may collapse. The crown and root tissues become soft, start rotting, turn black or brown. The only known way to stop the spread of the disease is to use clean propagation material and to avoid spreading the disease during harvesting and propagation.
Black tip is a disorder that usually only damages the exposed bracts of small axillary buds. The symptoms of this disease include the tips of the bracts turning dark brown or almost black, becoming dry and leathery. The bud may not be edible, but it is still marketable. The black tip looks like it is most commonly seen during times when the weather is sunny, warm, and windy. This happens because these conditions cause the plants to grow faster and feel more stressed from lack of moisture. The exact cause of the disorder is not known.