Artichoke – All You Should Know About This Unbloomed Flower

Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus), also called the globe artichoke, green artichoke, and French artichoke, is a herbaceous perennial grown for its edible flower buds.

People have cultivated and consumed artichoke in the Mediterranean for a very long time. When it comes to the United States, California is currently a sizeable commercial grower.

What is the artichoke plant, and how long has it been known to the world? How do you use it, and where does it grow best? All your artichoke-related queries will get answered if you stay with us!

Artichokes belong to the Asteraceae family. Thistles, sunflowers, and dandelions are also members of the same family. Although it’s hardy in most U.S. growing zones from 3 to 11, it’s usually grown as an annual in colder climates. In warmer regions, from zones 7 to 11, it can grow as a short-living perennial.

Artichokes are a vital ingredient of many globally recognized recipes. The Italian “Four Seasons” pizza, Roman Jewish-style artichokes, Spanish Paella, and countless other international recipes aren’t complete without fresh, tender artichokes.

And if you’re still thinking about that weird title that says, artichoke is an unbloomed flower, just read this post on Huffington Post to find out more!

Common NameArtichoke, Globe Artichoke
Botanical NameCynara Cardunculus Var. Scolymus
Plant TypePerrenial (An Annual In Colder Climates)
Size (Fully Grown)3 – 6 Feet Tall (0,91 – 1,83 Meters) And 5 Feet Wide (1,5 Meters)
Sun ExposureFull Sun
Soil TypeOne That Is Sandy Or Loam
Soil pHFrom 6.5 To 7.5
Flower ColorPurple
U.S. Hardiness Zones3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, And 11
Native AreaThe Mediterranean Region

How Many Artichoke Varieties Are There?

There are two significant classifications under the artichokes – the globe and elongated. The taste and texture are much the same, and so are their growing requirements. Most of the difference comes from the size and shape of these artichokes.

Globe artichokes are the classic round ones with fuller buds. The elongated varieties are longer and thinner, with a conical shape. Given the form, elongated artichokes are a bit emptier than globe ones but share the same great flavor and nutritional value.

Under this main classification, you’ll find several artichoke varieties. But every type is either globe or elongated artichoke.

Globe

  1. King
  2. Lyon
  3. Castel
  4. Tempo
  5. Omaha
  6. Fiesole
  7. Chianti
  8. Sangria
  9. Chinese
  10. Mercury
  11. Big Heart
  12. Jerusalem
  13. Baby Anzio
  14. Green Globe
  15. Imperial Star

Elongated

  1. Siena
  2. Violetta

Where Did Artichokes Come From?

Artichokes and cardoons (the wild form of thistles from which artichokes were domesticated) have been around from ancient Greek and Roman times. The plant is also one of the oldest vegetables ever to be cultivated. Most historians agree that it originated from the Mediterranean regions, while some people track its origins back to Northern Africa.

There’s mention of cardoons as garden plants in the works of Homer and Hesiod, Greek poets, from the 8th century BCE. Pliny the Elder, a renowned Roman naturalist, also mentions the chokes’ cultivation back in 77 A.D. in Cordoba and Carthage, cities of the ancient Mediterranean. Though Pliny called them one of the earth’s monstrosities, many people continued consuming them.

Artichokes preserved in honey and vinegar that were consumed all year long was a luxury only the wealthy Romans could afford, as highlighted by the historians. Catherine Di Medici, queen consort of France, brought artichokes from Florence to France in the 16th century, where she married Henry the second. From France, the popularity spread to England, during the reign of Henry VIII, and Holland.

Where Are Artichokes Grown In The U.S.?

French immigrants brought artichokes to American colonies in the early 1800s. But, it wasn’t until the 1900s that the United States saw any commercial cultivation. During the 1950s, these new vegetables became the official vegetable for Monterey County, California.

Today, artichokes are cultivated across France, Italy, and Spain. Most of the artichokes for the United States come from California.

How Can You Identify Artichokes?

So what does the plant look like, and which parts are edible? Let’s take a look!

The Plant

Globe artichokes are large plants that take up plenty of space in the garden. These plants can grow even 5 to 6 feet (about 1,5 to 2 meters) in height and five feet wide (about 1,5 meters).

The thick, fleshy stems and large, silver-green leaves make them easy to recognize even before the flower buds appear. It’s the purple flower buds that the plant is cultivated for, and if the buds aren’t harvested in time, they open up into large, fragrant flowers.

The Bud

Artichoke gives rosettes of erect flowering stalks each year. Purple flower heads grow out of the tips of these stalks. These buds are harvested before the flowers open and served raw, in salads or appetizers, or as cooked vegetables. The bracts and receptacles of the flower head are both edible, with a tender, nutty flavor.

If the buds are allowed to open up, they grow into large, fragrant purple thistles. After growing for 4 to 6 years, the rosettes become crowded, and the flower buds’ size grows smaller. Gardeners then renew the crop by rooted offshoots.

© JuriAlexander – stock.adobe.com

Leaves

The plant has thick, fleshy stems with silver-green, lobed leaves. These arching leaves can grow to about 3 feet (about 0,91 cm) long and wither each year after the plant flowers.

Although the plant isn’t primarily grown for the leaves, they’re still edible. In fact, in the ancient Mediterranean times, the plant was valued more for its young leaves than the flower head.

Where Do Artichokes Grow Best?

Do you now know the answer to what the artichoke plant is? The next thing you may be wondering is whether you can grow it in your home garden. They’re beautiful plants to grow, an intriguing addition to any garden, as long as you have plenty of space.

Although it will take two years for the plants to flower, it’s worth the wait. The plants continue to produce attractive, flavorful harvests for 4 to 8 years before you see any degradation in the size or quality.

The Temperature

The plant prefers to grow in a warm spot. But, if it’s too hot, the flowers will bloom prematurely, so it’s best to apply a layer of mulch to the soil to keep it cool.

In most regions, you can grow them as perennials, as long as the winters are mild, with temperatures between 50 to 60°F (about 10 to 15,5°C), and summers are cool. Summer temperatures between 70 to 80°F (approximately 21 to 27°C) are ideal for its growth. In cooler regions, you can still grow artichokes, but only as annuals.

Gardeners in warmer climates can plant them between spring and fall, while those living in colder regions should plant in early spring, right after the last frost. At the planting time, the ideal soil temperature is 50 to 80°F (about 10 to 27°C).

The Climate

The plant prefers dry, warm weather, typical in California and the Mediterranean. It will grow in most regions as long as the growing temperatures are within a suitable range.

For zones 7 to 11, the plant will effortlessly grow as a perennial, giving flower buds for harvest for as long as eight years. In colder zones, it will only grow as an annual.

Choose a site with full sun, with light, sandy, fertile soil. They prefer a pH that is slightly on the alkaline. Ensure that the soil drains well but retains moisture long enough for the roots to absorb it between waterings in hot summers.

Frequent and thorough watering is required, about three times a week during summers, to make sure the plants give thick, tender flower buds.

Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Artichokes?

Artichokes are healthy vegetables that are loaded with nutrients. But, are there some things that you need to be aware of before consuming them?

Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women

There isn’t much reliable information to confirm if artichokes consumed in large amounts or artichoke extracts are safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women. It’s advisable to consume them only in moderate food amounts to be on the safe side.

Children

Artichokes are generally safe for children, and you can give them to your kids once they are about six months old. But remember to cook it well to avoid choking and contact your health advisor in case of any allergic reactions. As a side note, consuming the plant may cause gas or even diarrhea in some individuals.

People With Allergies

People allergic to daisies, marigolds, sunflowers, and other members of the same family are likely to be allergic to artichokes too. If you have allergies, consult a healthcare provider before consuming them.

People With Diabetes

If you have diabetes, go ahead and eat this plant! Believe me or not, but even people in ancient times have used artichoke to lower their blood sugar levels. You might even notice this yourself if you start to consume them regularly.

Pets

Artichokes are safe for your pets. Neither of the parts, stems, leaves, or flower buds, are toxic; you can safely plant them in your garden if you have pets around.

But, to prevent choking, offer the buds in small portions only if you plan on feeding them. As with humans, it may, although rarely, cause diarrhea or vomiting in pets.

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