| The bud, or
immature flower, is the part of the artichoke that is harvested. The edible
portions of the bud are the tender bases of the leaves (bracts), and the fleshy
base upon which the flowers are borne (heart).
The artichoke does best
in frost-free areas with cool summers. Freezing temperatures kill the buds, and
hot, dry conditions destroy their tenderness. Artichokes need an open,
sheltered site on well drained soil.
The artichoke is a perennial, so it
is best to prepare the soil well before planting by mixing in plenty of well
rotted organic matter into the soil. Artichokes can be produced from seed, but
it is best to plant by using root divisions which are generally available at
your local nurseries.
Healthy plants can be dug up, the root divided and
replanted. Suckers can be removed from established plants in early to mid
spring. They should be about 8 inches long, and well rooted, with at least two
shoots growing off of it.
After clearing the soil from around the
roots, cut them free from the parent. Using suckers to replace some of the
older plants will increase the overall yield of the bed, since young plants are
ready for harvest in late summer, and older plants will be ready in late spring
and early summer.
Artichokes reach a height of 3 or 4 feet and will
spread of up to 6 feet in diameter, so allow plenty of space for them. It is
best to plant them in a shady area, separately from the rest of the garden so
that they won't be disturbed by the planting of annual vegetables. Spacing at
intervals of 4 to 6 feet.
Don't plant them near tree roots, as they
don't compete well. The root sections should be set 6 to 8 inches deep.
Artichokes like frequent irrigation. Moisture deficiency will cause loose buds.
However artichokes dislike soggy conditions. Planting them on mounds or in rows
with irrigation furrows will be of benefit, along with the addition of well
rotted organic matter to help prevent drought in the summer and waterlogging
Plant suckers or divisons about 2 1/2 feet apart,
and keep them shaded until they are established. Artichokes will benefit
greatly from an application of high potash fertilizer evey two weeks when they
are actively growing.
If you live in an area with mild winter
temperatures, you can cover the artichokes with a layer of straw to protect
them, and remove it in the spring before they begin growing again.
flowering stem will produce one large artichoke at the tip, along with smaller
ones below. The first year, there will be only a few heads produced, and if you
remove them, the plant will focus it's energy on developing it's root system,
and will become well established. Although you may be tempted to allow the
plant to produce fruit, patience will be rewarded the following
Harvesting should occur in mid to late summer, when the scales
have closed up nice and tight, by removing the top bud first, along with 2 -3
inches of stem. Leave the side buds until they have grown large
Slugs are the biggest problem for artichokes, but an application
of slug bait can fix it pretty easily. Generally, a regular sprinkling of slug
bait at the beginning of the season, and every two weeks thereafter, is a good
protective measure for your gardens anyway.
Artichokes are highly
nutritous, and are good for the liver, detoxification, and healing. They are
know to reduce blood sugar, and cholesterol, stimulate the gall bladder, and
assist in the metabolism of fat.
The artichoke is usually cooked by
boiling it for a half hour or so, in salted water with a touch of lemon, and is
done, when you can push a fork or knife through the heart.
leaves can be pulled off by hand, and dipped in mayo, melted butter, or any
other sauce you might enjoy.