I Think I’ll Try Artichoke

24 Mar

Each year I like to grow something new.  Even if I haven’t eaten it before, I find that if I grow it, and eat it fresh picked, I usually find myself falling in love with a new food.  This year I am going to grow artichoke for the first time.  What prompted this was a photograph I saw in a magazine of this beautiful vertically growing flower in a garden filled with brightly colored flowers.  Kind of a contemporary cottage garden feel, but these tall vertical plants didn’t have a bright flower on top; they had tall sturdy stems with more of a ball shaped flower.  I looked closer and saw that it was an artichoke.  It looked amazing in the garden, so even if I don’t eat it, the texture and visual appeal that it adds to the garden is worth learning how to grow this new plant.

artichoke

Globe Artichoke, Cynara scolymus L, is a member of the Sunflower Family.  Low in fat and higher than most vegetables in protein, this flower is a delicious treat.  I have tried it steamed and was taught to peel off the petals of the immature flower and scrape the fleshy portion along my bottom teeth, eating only this part and discarding the rest of the tough “skin”.  I was told that if I dipped it in mayo, it was even better.  This was new to me, tasted good, but I haven’t tried it since.  As far as world production, Artichokes are grown primarily in Italy, Spain, and Argentina.  So probably because it is not a very common vegetable at my local farmers market, artichokes fell off of my edible radar.

artichoke seed

artichoke seeds

Artichoke is a perennial to zone 7, but can be grown as an annual in cooler zones if you choose the right variety.  Artichokes bloom during their second year when grown as a perennial.  Eliot Coleman writes in his book The New Organic Grower that you can trick your plants by starting the seeds and growing them in warm conditions for 6 weeks, then placing them in cooler conditions for up to 6 weeks.  The plant will then think that it is a two year old plant.  I don’t have 12 weeks!   Johnny’s Selected Seeds suggests vernalizing  seedlings by planting them outside with nighttime temperatures of 50 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 6-8 days while also providing protection from frost. I am growing Imperial Star, which Johnny’s says is easiest to grow from seed. These should bloom in about 85 days.  I’ll try that since my frost free date is in about 7 weeks.  I am behind!  They will just mature later in the season if I can get them outside at the beginning of May.  The urgency I am feeling run through my veins is increasing each day!

Check your seed starting plan.  Next week is going to be a big one, but for now, get your artichoke seeds planted!

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4 Responses to “I Think I’ll Try Artichoke”

  1. Patricia Newport March 24, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

    Hey Patti,
    I grow them most years. I’ve never been successful getting them to come back regardless of how I attempt to protect. I think the ground just freezes to hard, too deeply, for them to overwinter.

    HOWEVER, as you mentioned, you can “trick” them into blooming (the edible part) by exposing them to night chill- never frost- for a period of time. I suppose you could put the plants in the refrigerator as well, to create a night-like chill.

    Because they produce best after establishing a year or more, I never get more than 4-5 on my plants here in the Detroit area. I offset that by tucking lots of them into my perennial beds. They aren’t the most gorgeous plants, thistle after all, but the flowers are glorious if you accidentally let them get too far along for good eating.

    this year I’m trying a purple one too! I’ll let you know.

    • Patti Marie Travioli March 24, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

      Patricia. Thank you for your insight and comments. What a challenge this will be!

  2. EcoPoliticalEcon November 9, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    I’m experimenting with growing artichokes indoors here in Colorado. The first round was a bust because I didn’t night-chill the plants and they never bloomed. I’ve just germinated seeds for round two and they’ll be spending the next 2 or 3 weeks in the windows so they get some low temps at night.

    How did yours turn out?

    • Patti Marie Travioli November 13, 2013 at 11:14 am #

      Well, they sat outside from early spring in the containters, and I planted them late in the spring (could have been early summer!). They sat there and didn’t do much, like the warm summer sent them into a dormant state. But then when the cooler fall nights started, they bolted into flower and I was able to harvest a few. They are a lot smaller than the ones that you find in the store. I allowed one to fully flower in attempt to get seeds, but then got busy again (outside of the garden) and when I checked it was spent. I will definately sow seeds again next year. Don’t be discouraged! They may take a long time, but were well worth the wait. Let me know how yours grow for you.

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