Globe artichokes are low in calories and sodium and high in vitamin C, folic acid, and magnesium. A good source of dietary fiber, artichokes are free of saturated fat and cholesterol. In other words, artichokes are healthy food.
Globe artichokes and Jerusalem artichokes are entirely different plants. This article is about globe artichokes, the large, thistle-like plants that produce edible “leaves” and “hearts.” Artichokes grow well in the Mediterranean climate of the California coast, with its fog, deep rich soil, and cool summers.
In fact, Castroville, California has the honor of being called the artichoke capital of the world. But you can grow chokes in less ideal conditions by choosing the right varieties and adapting the growing techniques to your climate.
Globe Artichoke Varieties
Northern Star is hardy to temperatures below freezing. Imperial Star is one of the earliest to produce from seed, making it a good choice for annual production. Green Globe is one of the most popular artichokes to grow.
Globe Artichoke Planting and Care
Artichoke culture depends on the climate. Artichokes are perennials, but they can be grown as annuals in climates with cold winters.
In cold climates, start artichoke seeds indoors eight weeks before the last spring frost date. Sow them one-quarter inch apart in soilless mix; transplant seedlings into two-to-four-inch containers. Grow them on at 60-70 degrees F during the day and 50-60 degrees F at night. When they are six-to-eight weeks old, plant them in the garden two-to-three feet apart. To set buds artichoke plants need at least 250 hours of temperatures below 50 degrees F, a process called vernalization. Be sure to protect plants from frost.
In areas where the winter temperature stays above 14 degrees F, seeds are typically sown in the fall and harvested in the spring.
Artichokes need sandy, quick-draining soil with high organic content; cool nights and warm days; and a regular supply of water. Mulching with a coarse, loose mulch will keep weeds down and moisture even. Full sun is a must.
Artichoke Pests and Diseases
Slugs and snails eat young leaves. If there are too many to pick, try small dishes of beer sunk to ground level. Iron phosphate baits and beer traps (shallow containers filled with beer sunk so the rims are at ground level) may protect plants from the slugs and snails. Insecticidal soap can help with black flies and aphids.
When you eat an artichoke you are eating the immature flower. The edible globe or bud is actually the fleshy bracts of the flower, plus the receptacle, which is what we call the heart. Harvest chokes when the heads are still tightly closed and the lower bud bracts start to separate. Secondary chokes will develop after you cut the top one. Time of harvest depends on location.
If you don’t harvest the immature flowers they turn into thistle-like purple-blue flowers. With their large, fuzzy gray leaves, artichoke blooms are dramatic additions to flower arrangements. In fact, the blooms are so striking, many gardeners grow artichoke plants in their flower gardens.
Want to learn more about growing Artichokes?
Artichokes take up a lot of space and are not the easiest plants to grow. Because the culture varies so much by climate, you’ll need more location-specific information before you add choke to your garden. The following websites have the details you’ll need, plus ideas for cooking these coarse plants with the delicate flavor.
Here’s a great .pdf file related to How to Grow Globe Artichokes in Connecticut.
If you’re in Cali, check out this .pdf on Artichoke Production in California.