Permaculture Plant: Globe Artichoke

artichoke
Photo by Robyn Rosenfeldt

Clockwise from above: Artichoke head ready for picking; The flower of the globe artichoke attracts lots of beneficial insects to the garden; Remove the outer petals of the artichoke, prior to eating.

artichoke
Photo by Tatiana Frank
artichoke
Photo by Robyn Rosenfeldt

Striking, hardy and delicious, globe artichokes fill many roles in any permaculture-savvy garden. Once established, they survive with minimal attention and create a silvery-green focal point in all food gardens. They make an excellent hedge or windbreak planted close together and provide a unique and pleasing addition to the spring and summer table.

The globe artichoke, a member of the asteraceae family, is actually a thistle. If you see one in bloom it will be obvious because the flower head looks like a super-sized thistle head! Originating in the Mediterranean, they grow well in warm, dry climates. They are a perfect plant to fill a hot, sunny corner of the garden and will grow well with a regular deep soaking of water to help them become established. Just allow them plenty of space as they mature up to 1 m wide and 1.5 m tall.

How To Grow

Considered semi-perennial, globe artichokes don’t handle severe frost and will die back in areas with cold winters. Mulch well to insulate from very cold conditions and they will emerge in spring. If your winter is not severe, you might find a decent prune and mulching around the base will see them through winter.

They are difficult to grow successfully in sub-tropical or tropical climates as they are susceptible to crown rot and don’t like humidity.

Globe artichokes grow best in free-draining soil with pH of 6.5–7.5. If your soil is heavy, containing a lot of clay, or is prone to waterlogging, plant them in a raised or mounded position to encourage drainage in the soil.

Suckers Or Seed

One of the advantages of globe artichokes is that each year they produce suckers at their base which can be sliced off with a sharp spade and planted. Each offshoot will be a replica of the plant from which it is removed, so choose your best producing or most beautiful plant to propagate.

A low-cost way to introduce globe artichokes to your garden is to grow from seed, available in several varieties. Sow into trays in late winter and spring, planting seedlings out into well-composted soil. The seeds will naturally result in plants that exhibit variation in their growth and form, so be prepared for plants that may not be entirely uniform.

Pests & Problems

Aside from not coping in humidity or waterlogged soils, globe artichokes are relatively problem-free in the right environment. Snails and slugs can be an issue if you are growing from seed, as can aphids; so keep an eye out for them in spring when young plants are most vulnerable.

Globe artichokes are hardy, but will benefit from a deep soaking regularly in hot weather and when sending up flower heads.

Harvest

Harvest the flower buds in spring through early summer. Established plants produce multiple small heads after the initial, larger, flower is picked. They should be harvested while the petals are still small and tightly closed.

If you do miss the window of opportunity that is a young artichoke flower, make sure you remove the outer and upper petals to get to the still-tender heart. Or, let it go all the way to flower – the bees and insects adore them!

How To Prepare

To prepare a globe artichoke, remove the outer petals then trim off the top of the globe, the stem and the spiky ends on each petal. Cut in half to remove the fibrous ‘choke’ inside or use a spoon to scoop it out from the top.

Globe artichokes discolour very quickly so when you are preparing them, rub with lemon or drop into lemon water to minimise this before cooking. After peeling and trimming, you’ll be left with a delicious hollow whole or half artichoke head that you can steam, boil, grill, saut., bake or preserve in oil. Sprinkle with oil, lemon, salt and pepper and enjoy!!

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