Kitchen Gardening

Artichokes Are Edible and Architectural

If you’re looking for something new for your vegetable garden, think artichokes. These prized vegetables add extra interest wherever they’re planted.

Artichokes add strong vertical (and delicious) interest to vegetable gardens and foodscapes.
Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey

Globe artichokes are an annual vegetable that can add extra buzz to the vegetable garden. This edible thistle has especially interesting foliage for foodscapes, too.

Artichokes are an ancient vegetable that may have originated in the Mediterranean. There may be as many as 50 different varieties of globe artichokes (Cynara scolymus), but they are different from other kinds of artichokes like Jerusalem artichokes, Chinese artichokes and Japanese artichokes.

There are size differences, too, from jumbo to baby size. The edible flower bud has tough, petal-shaped leaves that can be steamed, grilled, baked and enjoyed with butter and lemon.

Select annual varieties of globe artichokes for short-season areas that can mature in 85-95 days. To decide how many artichokes to plant, consider a typical harvest is about 5 artichokes per plant. You’ll need a large, sunny space in the garden because plants can grow to 3-4 feet wide and just as tall.

Cultivate the soil deeply so plants can spread their roots, and amend the soil with compost or other organic matter to build a rich, fertile loam that’s well-drained.

Place artichoke transplants into the garden when soil has warmed to between 45-65 degrees. Space plants about 48 inches apart. Add a thick layer of organic mulch, like untreated grass clippings or straw, to prevent weeds from sprouting.

Because artichokes are heavy nitrogen feeders, make sure to keep up with fertilizer throughout the growing season. It’s important for plants to get regular, deep watering, especially when flower buds are forming.

A primary flower bud will form at the top of the stalk with 2-3 smaller buds on side shoots. Artichokes are ready to harvest when the flower bud has a tight leaf formation, deep color and feels heavy for its size. If in doubt, the leaves should squeak when pressed together.

Cut the artichoke stem straight across, leaving about 2 inches of stem below the flower bud’s base. Enjoy as close to harvest as possible or store (unwashed) in plastic bags in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Do you have a favorite artichoke recipe? Please share it here.

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