About Artichokes: Growing and Harvesting

Artichokes are a plant I was so excited to get in the garden. I love how they look in the garden and I love eating them. But….. I’m not sure how I feel about preparing and cooking them at home.

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Varieties

In winter a year ago I planted two varieties – Green Globe….

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…and Purple (Violetto – after reading that purple varieties have the best flavour), both from Diggers. The results have been interesting…varied! These ones are a bit more globe-shaped and the foliage is pretty attractive and friendly:

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By friendly I mean not lethally spiky, like these ones, foliage and artichokes:

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Same variety. Lethal and not that much fun to brush up against. Think this plant is destined for the compost heap.

Cultivation

I haven’t looked after these too much. They all went into reasonably well prepared garden beds. I watered them quite a bit last summer (which was hot and dry and long) but they never looked bothered in long dry spells. I didn’t cut them back to the ground last season after flowering. Should I have? What do you do?

Propagation

And because I let them go to seed rather than eating them (argh, stupid) lots of seedlings are popping up.

It’s a bit hard to see but in the photo below, there are at least two seedlings to the right of what I assume to be the parent plant (to the left), that don’t look spiky, yet. Fingers crossed. They’re too close of course, so I think I’ll dig them out, pot them, and either plant somewhere else or give them away.

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I’ve read that the off-shoots are more reliable and better quality than seedlings. This pic shows two plants, one of which must have been a seedling I think because I only planted one here and the second looks too far from the first to be a side-shoot. The second plant seems to be producing pretty nice looking globe artichokes, so maybe it’s just a matter of luck.

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On the plant below, there is a side shoot that is fruiting this year. Standing back you wouldn’t notice it’s a separate shoot, it just makes the entire plant more productive.

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I guess the things to keep in mind about sideshoots are that:

  1. You can lop them off to start a new plant elsewhere in the garden.
  2. I think in the long term they make the plant congested and less productive. I think you’re supposed to divide the plants after a few years.

Spacing

They obviously grow, er, quite large. This one is as tall as me, about two metres wide, and is dwarfing the baby orange tree behind it. It’s about to get a hair cut though.

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Harvesting

Apparently always harvest before the petals start to open. Not sure if the one below is a bit past it or not? Take the biggest, centre-most artichoke first, then keep harvesting the others. I think like a lot of flowering/fruiting plants, harvesting the artichokes encourages development of more. Also, I think the longer you leave it, the more the hairy choke (that eventually forms the furry flower) develops and the less heart there is left to eat.

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Yield

If my plants are anything to go by, seems like you are going to get around 5-10 artichokes on each plant at any one time once they start fruiting, in a good season (we’re having a very mild rainy spring this year). Could be more, I’m not sure, I’ll have to report back on how long they keep producing side shoots for. I seem to have about ten artichokes forming on my purple plants, and around five forming on my Globe artichokes. I just harvested this many from about four plants, with many more baby ones coming along:

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So, why am I not sure how I feel about preparing and cooking them at home? Stay tuned for the next exciting installment, while I figure out just how I do feel about that.

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