Growing up Gorgeous, the Globe Artichoke

What are you going to grow? Why not the gorgeous Globe Artichoke?

Proper name: Cynara scolymus

Description: this useful plant is a perennial but bear in mind it’s not full frost hardy across the UK. Usually it is grown for the flower-buds which are deliciously edible, but canny gardeners know that you can blanch the leaf shoots too, which gives a second crop that can be cooked like celery.

Soil and site
: Globe artichokes need a good fertile soil that is well drained but not so porous it dries out too quickly (here's a tip, just put some soil in a flat tray with drainage holes, saturate it and leave it to dry. If it forms a crust, it’s probably too porous). Because the plants stay in place for up to four years, make sure you manure the ground in advance to give all the nutrients they need over their lifetime. This is a big bushy plant, taking up an area of around three to four feet across and five tall. So you must make sure that not only does it have ample space in itself, but it doesn’t shade out or encroach on other crops. It tends to prefer sunshine to shade.

Cultivation: Plant offsets in April, making sure they have plenty of space, or grow from seed in March in a heated greenhouse, moving outside in May. Keep well watered and give a sprinkle of nitrogen based fertilizer in spring. Much with compost or some other organic matter in summer and support taller growing varieties with stakes. Do not allow the plants to flower in their first year – prevent this by pinching out all the flower buds! When the plants mature in year two, restrict the number of main buds (called king heads) to five or six. Cut these king heads when they are about for inches across, snipping through the stem about six inches below the bud, this means smaller buds will develop giving you second crop. Once the flower has expanded though, the head is inedible. In autumn, cut down the foliage - and on exposed sites, earth up the crowns and cover them lightly with bark or newspaper, ensuring there is enough air circulation for them not to rot. Remove in early spring.

Next time I’ll talk about how to get that second crop from the stems and the – fortunately - rare problems experienced by this wonderful crop.

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Blogger Barrie said...

would it be possible to show a picture of the plant when it has been cut in preparation for winter please?

August 6, 2007 at 6:56 AM  
Anonymous Merenda said...

Please advise why I cannot harvest year one artichokes, I have done as the heads are huge but they are so tough and no hearts. If I take offcuts and replant next spring will they still be tough? Thanks.

August 7, 2007 at 3:15 AM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Barrie, I'll try to remember, and Merenda, you just can't harvest year one artichokes - the only way to get them to taste good is to wait until year two! The biological system of the artichoke is such that the first year's flowers actually determine the nature of the plant - remember that any vegetable is generally just a casing for a seed. You want the vegetable but the plant just wants to the seed to germinate, so you're often working at cross-purposes; the plant wants as many good big seeds as possible, and you want small seeds and big casings around them, because the casings are the vegetable parts we value. If you let your globe artichoke flower in the first year, it will think it's got it right and continue to have small hard flowerheads. If you are ruthless enough to pinch out EVERY SINGLE bud in the first flowering season, the plant thinks it got it wrong and instead of many small hard flowerheads it will try fewer, bigger, softer ones ... and that's exactly what you want to eat! If you take offsets (as long as you remove all flowers in the first year) they won't be tough like the parent plant.

August 8, 2007 at 1:51 AM  
OpenID nipitinthebud said...

I've just found your blog doing a search for 'globe artichokes'. I tried to cook with artichokes this evening but it turns out the globes are cardoons! I wanted to check I wasn't going mad and that the two plants do look similar! I'm going to post a 'spot the difference' on my blog and would like to post your picture alongside mine as it's the closest match I've found for the two different plants. Is that ok? I'll put the appropriate links on and have tagged you now anyway as your site looks so interesting. cheerio, Nic

July 16, 2009 at 1:36 PM  
OpenID nipitinthebud said...

hello again, a message to you rather than a comment following the one I sent just now. Don't worry about the use of photo bit, I've remembered someone else on my plot who does have an artichoke and will go and take a photo of that. thanks, Nic

July 16, 2009 at 1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish I'd read this before - but this year have harvested over 40 delicious heads from my first-year artichoke plants which I grew from seed, so am a little puzzled about the discussion about hard inedible globes... I'm also now having a second autumn crop from the same plants.

November 9, 2009 at 5:25 AM  
Anonymous Netta said...

My artichoke plant is doing very well but is spreading. It is going into its third year now.Could I take offsets from it? If so how do I do it?

November 20, 2009 at 7:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

more links for that topic?
And Bye.

November 30, 2009 at 4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please ignore all advice about pinching out the first year's heads - i let them all develop (after growing them from seed) and they were large and delicious. Just had my second year's crop and was even better!

September 22, 2011 at 8:32 AM  

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