Grow at Home: How to grow Globe Artichokes
Globe artichokesGlobe artichoke (Cynara scolymus) is a perennial plant (lasts up to 6 years) and one type of thistle that you are going to actually want on your plot!
Sowing Globe Artichokes
Artichokes can be grown from seed or crowns. Artichoke crowns can be purchased from your garden centre.
Sow artichoke seeds in March and April 14mm (½in) n 7.5cm (3in) pots filled with good compost.
You can also sow straight into their final position. They aren't too fussy when it comes to soil and their growing conditions. So, a reasonably fertile soil will be fine as long as it is well drained.
Sow 2 or 3 seeds - at 14mm (½in) deep in rows 25-30cm (10-12in) apart. You will need to thin later to leave the strongest seedling in each spot. Cover with an Easy Seedling Tunnel to give them the best start.
Plants are more commonly propagated from rooted suckers, bought or taken from established plants from March-April. So if you see suckers that are 20-30cm (8-12in) long with at least two shoots then grab the chance to get a free plant or start off a replacement for your current plant.
Pot grown seedlings and bought plants can all be planted out in April to June. Leave them until they have at least five true leaves. Allow 60-90cm (2-3ft) between plants. Water them well until they are established.
Caring for Artichoke Plants
The first year
The first year is all about getting the plant established. Water regularly during dry weather. Mulch with well-rotted manure or compost and liquid feed every fortnight.
In late autumn, cut off the foliage and mulch the crowns to protect them over winter. Pile straw or leaves over the crown and secure it with netting and a plastic sheet to keep it dry.
In spring, as the plants begin to grow again, remove the mulch and feed.
In later years you can relax a little. Weed well and mulch with well-rotted manure or similar and feed with general fertiliser in spring when the soil starts to warm. This will help to increase yields.
As in the first year, the plants will need some protection from the cold in winter. So mulch and cover as indicated above.
To keep stock young and vigorous, divide plants every two to three years and plant at the same spacing as seeds.
Seed-grown plants usually flower the year of sowing. Like other perennial plants though it is advisable to let them establish well before harvesting. So, as small heads start to develop during the first year, cut them off and discard to reserve strength for the following year.
Generally you harvest artichokes the June to July a year after planting. Harvest the buds before they open and start to flower.
They become more and more prolific each year until, after around 4 to 6 years, they will run out of steam and the planting needs to be renewed. So watch out for suckers from your best plants as the plants start to age and you can ensure new plants come in without a break in the harvest.
How to Harvest Artichokes
To harvest your artichokes remove the buds, when they reach the size of a golf ball. You can let them get bigger but there is more flavour in the smaller bulbs.
Cut off the main stem head (the king head) first with secateurs. After harvesting the main head, secondary heads appear, these too can be harvested, when they have developed. As the plant is still getting established, don't let more than 6 heads develop in this second year. In the third and subsequent years 12 heads can be allowed to develop.
Artichokes are best served simply.
Start by removing any damaged scales and trim the points off the remaining scales with sharp scissors.
Remove the hairy central choke (which is inedible) before boiling until tender (test with a knife as you would a potato). Time will vary according to the size of the artichoke but may be as much as 40 minutes for larger buds.
Then all you need is some melted butter (or a hollandaise if you are feeling extravagant) - pull off each scale, dip in the butter and suck the fleshy base of each scale . You can then eat the tender central heart afterwards with a spoon.
Pests & Diseases
Slugs and snails may be a problem for the seedlings. Use beer traps or a circle of crushed egg shells to deter them.
Aphids - look out for greenfly on the tips of the shoots and manually remove them as soon as you see them before they get out of hand. Squash between your finger and thumb.
What else to grow?
If you like to grow unusual veg then how about Jerusalem Artichokes? They aren't actually artichokes (or from Jerusalem!) but they have beautiful blooms and come back year after year. Find out How to Grow Jerusalem Artichokes here.
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