Artichoke plants are herbaceous perennials that are members of the Asteraceae family, a group that includes thistles, dandelions, and sunflowers. It is also called globe artichoke or French artichoke. The botanical name of artichoke is Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus. They are native to the western and central Mediterranean and North Africa, the artichoke was domesticated and carried to the eastern Mediterranean in ancient times, though it was then valued for its young leaves rather than the immature flower heads. The edible flower form was first recorded in Italy about 1400, and today it is extensively cultivated in Mediterranean countries, the Americas, and other regions with the necessary rich soil and mild climate.
They are short-lived perennials in warmer climates but are normally grown as annuals in cooler regions. Artichokes are usually grown for the edible flower buds, which are harvested before the flowers open. The leaves of artichokes are silvery-green in color with a long, arching shape. Although they look soft, the leaves can be quite prickly. The stems of the plant are thick and fleshy. The flower buds are the parts sold in produce aisles. At the base of the bud is the tender, flavorful artichoke "heart." If allowed to blossom on the plant, artichoke flowers open into large, dome- or muff-shaped purple thistles that are surprisingly fragrant.
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3 - 6 feet
4 - 5 feet
6.5 - 7.0
Growth Nutrition of Artichokes
Treat the plants with regular doses of fertilizer every four weeks throughout the growing season, as soon as the first artichokes emerge. Use a granulated fertilizer containing balanced amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, to create the rich soil artichokes require, according to Organic Gardening.
Types of Artichokes
Globe artichokes are the familiar ones that we see at the stores. They are considered as true artichokes and are available all year long. While buying, choose tightly packed chokes with green and purple leaves. The some of the globe artichoke includes:
Baby Anzio Artichoke - Baby Anzio is the smallest artichoke variety, measuring just 2 inches in diameter. This variety is harvested early, making it tasty with a sweet and nutty, caramel-like flavor. Mostly served grilled or roasted with garlic, butter, or olive oil.
Big Heart Artichoke - This artichoke grows without thorns that can handle some heat and produces 3-5 and a 1/2 inches wide, dense bud. It has a large, fleshy base and weighs around a pound. It pairs well with Parmesan Soup.
Castel Artichoke - This light green and round shape variety is loaded with vitamin B, potassium, calcium, and antioxidants. Have it steamed or boiled with a dip. It also helps in relieving low-blood pressure and digestive ailments.
Chianti Artichoke - Chianti produces 4-5 inches wide green artichokes with maroon dashes on leaves. It is an Italian variety related to Romanesco artichoke. It tastes best when stuffed with dried tomatoes and cheese!
Chinese Artichoke - The Chinese artichoke is very sought-after throughout Europe, and it can be cooked almost any way, as well as eaten raw.
Fiesole Artichoke - Fiesole features a tulip-shaped flower with deep violet-wine colored skin. This is the most delicious of all baby artichoke varieties with intense nutty and fruity flavor with grassy tones.
Green Globe Artichoke - It is the most common artichoke with wide, deep green buds and a light purple tinge. The green globe is excellent for use in salads and pairs well with spicy and flavorful dishes.
Imperial Star Artichoke - The imperial star artichoke is the most popular homegrown variety and produces 4-5 inches wide buds. It has a similar flavor to the green globe variety, though it is a bit sweeter.
Jerusalem Artichoke - Jerusalem’s elongated tubers are 3-4 inches long and give an appearance of ginger root. It goes best with soups and salads. You can also use it as an alternative to potatoes.
King Artichoke - Just as its name implies, this is a huge type of artichoke that often weighs more than one pound. The leaves are green at the tips and they are very vivid in color, making for both an attractive and tasty option for those who love artichokes.
Mercury Artichoke - Mercury artichokes are unique in that their tops are very round, and it has reddish-purple tinges throughout the vegetable. If you compare this type of artichoke to others, the Mercury is always a bit sweeter in taste.
Lyon Artichoke - Lyon has the largest heart in the artichoke family, growing up to 6 inches in diameter. It has a nutty, slightly sweet, and buttery flavor and is mostly used for stuffing. The leaves are used in salads.
Sangria Artichoke - It forms 3-4 inches wide artichokes with deep purple meaty leaves. It has a nutty flavor and can be consumed steamed. You can also add it to salads, pizzas, and pasta.
Omaha Artichoke - Omaha has a less bitter taste compared to other artichokes. This variety is quite meaty and has a buttery, nutty, sweet flavor. You can grill or stuff it and serve with spicy dishes.
Carciofo Romanesco Artichoke -This variety has deep purple leaves with a green tinge. Just like most artichokes, it is also thornless and tender with a nutty flavor and large heart. It tastes best when grilled.
Tempo Artichoke - This hybrid variety has 4-5 inches wide buds with purple tinge on bracts. It tastes best when roasted with garlic, lemon juice, and butter. You can also boil and sauté.
Elongated artichokes are conical shaped and long in size. They have similar nutritional values like the globe artichokes. The some of the elongated artichokes includes:
Siena Artichoke - This artichoke variety matures last in the growing season. It produces 4 inches wide, oblong, wine-red color tender hearts. They taste great when cooked with olive oil, garlic, pepper, and lemon juice.
Violetta Artichoke - Violetta variety offers 5 inches long and 3 inches wide artichokes with thick purple leaves. It has a nutty, buttery flavor and consumed in salads. You can also grill them with garlic herb butter and lemon.
Choose a spot in the garden that gets full sun (at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day).
Artichokes are heavy feeders. For each plant, mix a shovel of compost or aged manure into the soil before planting. They require consistent moisture, but do not like to be in waterlogged soil.
When to Plant Artichoke
Artichokes can be started from seeds, from rooted shoots taken from growing plants, or from dormant roots.
If starting from seeds:
Start seeds indoors in late winter or early spring, about 8-10 weeks before planting outside.
Soak the seeds in warm water before sowing in trays or pots.
Place the trays or pots in a warm spot with bright light.
Keep the soil moist.
Plant seedlings and shoots in the garden in the spring, after the last spring frost.
Dormant roots can be planted in the fall or winter in frost-free regions. In cooler climates, plant the roots in the spring after the last frost.
How to Plant Artichoke
Space each plant three to four feet apart in rows and leave four to five feet between the rows.
Plant the shoots and dormant roots about six inches deep. The tops should be above ground level.
Water deeply at the time of planting.
Because artichokes often take two years to flower, they are typically sold as container plants in their second year, or as established root crowns. They become large plants and should be spaced at least 4 feet apart, but 6 feet is even better. Plants grown as annuals, or where the tops will be killed back by frost, will not get as large and can be spaced a little closer. Harvest the buds for eating before they develop into thistle-like flowers.
When grown within their hardiness range, artichoke plants should produce for about three to five years and will develop side shoots at their bases. At this time, you can lift, divide, and replant the new shoots.
Artichokes grow best in full sun. They can tolerate some shade, but the flower buds will suffer.
Artichokes prefer sandy, well-drained but fertile soil. A pH slightly on the alkaline side is best. Slightly sandy soil (think: Mediterranean) is ideal. Good drainage is crucial to prevent the roots from rotting, especially in areas where they will be overwintered. However, the soil must also be able to retain water long enough to allow the roots to take it in during hot summers.
When growing artichokes as perennials, it is especially important to amend the soil before planting to ensure they will grow well in future years. If your garden soil is poor, consider growing your artichokes in raised beds.
Water frequently and deeply, one to three times a week. This will keep flower buds fleshy and tender and develop a strong root system that will keep the plants upright.
Temperature and Humidity
This plant prefers warm weather that is relatively dry, such as that found in the Mediterranean region and in California. Excessive heat will cause the plant to bloom prematurely. When grown as perennials, artichokes favor areas with mild winters (50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit) and cool, moist summers (70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit). Very hot soil will make the plants flower too quickly, so apply a thick mulch around the base of the plants to keep the soil cool.
Apply a balanced vegetable plant food every two weeks throughout the growing season. For the amount to use, follow the product label instructions.
Pruning and Propagating Artichokes
When harvesting artichokes, simply cut them from the plant at a 45-degree angle when they are about 3 inches in diameter. Cut spent stalks down to the ground to allow room for other stalks to grow. When the plant is done bearing fruit, cut it down to just above the ground and apply a heavy layer of mulch.
Though it is easier to grow artichokes from seed, it is possible to grow new artichoke plants from the offshoots that most artichokes produce starting in their second or third year. This can only be done in warm climates where artichokes overwinter.
During the fall or winter. remove some soil to expose the roots of the plant. Remove the shoots and the roots of the shoots with a sharp knife. The shoots should be at least 8 inches long.
Refill the soil around the original plant.
Plant the offshoots immediately in well-draining soil at least 6 feet away from the parent plant. Water it well and keep it moist. If it doesn't rain, give it at least 1 inch of water per week. New growth should appear within a few weeks.
Harvest artichoke buds when they have swelled but are still closed tight.
Use a sharp knife to cut across the stem about 1 to 2 inches below the bud.
How to Store Artichokes
Sprinkle fresh artichokes with water and put them in a plastic bag. Put the artichokes in the refrigerator where they will keep for up to 2 weeks.
To freeze artichoke hearts, first blanch the hearts in boiling water and a splash of lemon juice for 1-2 minutes. Cool and dry the hearts before putting them in plastic freezer bags.
Pests and Plant Diseases
While overwhelmingly hardy plants, gardeners should be on the alert for a few of the following common pests and diseases for artichokes.
Artichoke plume moth is actually a small larva which damages the artichoke bud throughout the entire growing season. A regular insecticide program can help control an infestation.
Slugs and snails often eat the leaves, stems and outer surface of artichoke buds. There are many organic and chemical methods for control.
Curley dwarf disease kills artichoke plants. Symptoms include curling leaves, stunted growth, misshapen buds and reduced production. Plants should be removed from the garden.
Botrytis blight is a fungus that develops on artichoke plants damaged by disease, weather or pests. It often appears as a grey-brown coating on the leaves during a warm and wet summer. There is no remedy. Infected plants should be removed and destroyed.
Young earwigs leave holes in leaves. Most of the damage is simply cosmetic, but a heavy infestation can damage young shoots. Earwig traps help cut down on the population. Hot pepper repellents can be sprayed as a deterrent.
Benefits of Artichoke
The fiber in artichokes aids digestion and contributes to healthy weight loss. It also regulates the levels of blood sugar and blood cholesterol, the latter enhancing heart health as well. While the important antioxidants like quercetin and gallic acid prevent cancer, various other antioxidants in artichokes help improve the health of the skin and hair.
Help Treat Indigestion And Other Digestive Issues
Artichoke leaf extract is recommended in several parts of the world to treat indigestion. The extract increases the flow of bile, and this speeds the food through the digestive tract. This is also the reason the extract can ease the symptoms of fullness and bloating.
Prevent Cancer Growth
Artichoke extracts were found to have negative effects on breast cancer cells in several studies. Research also states that artichokes can slow down the activity of liver cancer cells. All of this can be attributed to silymarin, a flavonoid in artichoke, which was found to be an anticancer agent.
The antioxidants in artichokes, namely rutin, quercetin, and gallic acid, were found to reduce the growth of cancerous cells. The polyphenols in artichokes were also found to induce cancer cell death.
As per other reports, the antioxidants in polyphenols kill pancreatic cancer cells as well. This can be attributed to apigenin, one of the compounds in artichokes.
Improve Liver Health And Aid Detoxification
Artichokes are quite popular for detoxifying your liver. Cynarin and silymarin, two compounds in artichokes, are known to improve liver health by reducing the amount of toxins. Globe artichoke has similar liver-regenerating properties like milk thistle (a plant known particularly for its liver-enhancing properties). The veggie is also known to prevent liver damage.
According to one Turkish study, artichoke leaf extract reduces oxidative stress on the liver.
Enhances Heart Health
The fiber in artichokes can contribute to heart health. And as per one Italian study, artichokes exhibit lipidic and glycemic-reducing action, which improves heart health to a great extent.
Artichoke leaf juice was also found to have antihypertensive effects – especially in those patients with mild hypertension. Lowering blood pressure is also one way of protecting the heart from damage and disease. And this can be attributed to the potassium content in the vegetable.
Improve Skin Health
Artichokes are super rich in antioxidants, which improve skin health and appearance and slow down skin aging. They are also rich in vitamin C, which is one of the biggest contributors to healthy collagen development. And since artichokes aid detoxification, this reflects on your skin health as well – as getting rid of toxins in the body is one way to improve skin appearance.
Using a concoction made of artichokes can give one younger-looking skin.
The antioxidants in artichokes also prevent oxidative stress, which affects skin health. The leaf extract also contains another important chemical called cynaropicrin, which reduces the damage caused by UV rays and protects the skin.
Might Benefit The Hair
Being a rich source of vitamins A, B, and C, as well as phosphorus and calcium – artichokes revive dry and dull hair and give it that shiny and bouncy appearance.
You can boil green artichoke leaves for about half an hour. Allow the solution to cool and then strain it. Massage into the scalp. You can leave it on overnight and wash with warm water in the morning. This not only improves the appearance of your hair but also treats other hair issues like dandruff and dry scalp.
Aid Diabetes Treatment
Being fiber-rich vegetables, artichokes can keep blood sugar levels stable, which is very important for diabetics. The fiber allows glucose to be absorbed into the blood more slowly, and this prevents sudden spikes in blood sugar levels. As per one study, Jerusalem artichoke might improve insulin secretion in diabetic humans.
Artichoke extract was also found to inhibit the activity of α-glucosidase, which is an enzyme that breaks down starch into glucose and might spike blood sugar levels.
Might Aid Weight Loss
Being rich in fiber, artichokes might aid weight loss. Fiber helps the body get rid of waste, sugar, toxins, and excess cholesterol – all of which might lead to weight gain. Studies have shown that taking plenty of fiber is one great way to prevent visceral fat (the kind of fat that gets accumulated around your internal organs).
Also, fiber can expand in your intestines and keep you full for long periods. This, by default, regulates your body weight.
Artichokes are also low in calories and fat, and hence make for an excellent food choice in a weight loss diet. The high fiber content in artichokes also boosts metabolism. And so do the other nutrients like niacin, vitamin B6, thiamin, and pantothenic acid – all of these exhibit optimum metabolic activities.
Protect Against Lead Toxicity
Accumulation of lead in the kidneys and other organs can be lethal. But the antioxidant effect of artichokes was found to reduce the concentration of lead in the blood.
One reason is the vitamin C – artichokes are rich in this nutrient, and that pretty much takes care of your immune system. And since artichoke is a good prebiotic, it enhances gut flora, and this also improves immunity.
Artichokes are also a good source of iron, which contributes to a strong immune system as well. And given the veggies are rich in numerous other phytonutrients, they boost the body’s defenses against disease.
The high amount of protein in artichokes also enhances immunity – as protein is required for the regeneration of cells.
The phytonutrients in artichokes are credited with various benefits, one of them being increased bone strength. They are also rich in magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus – minerals important for bone health and density.
What we need to look at again is the phosphorus in artichokes. This mineral works in tandem with calcium to build bones. Artichokes are also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, powerful antioxidants known to keep the bones strong.
Prevent Birth Defects
Artichokes are rich in folate, which explains everything. Adequate intake of folate before and during pregnancy cuts the risk of birth defects in the newborn – some of which include the underdevelopment of the brain or the spinal cord. Taking 400 to 800 micrograms of folate each day can prevent these defects. One medium artichoke contains 107 micrograms of folate.
The folic acid in artichokes is also a co-factor in enzymatic reactions and DNA synthesis – both of which are important, more so during pregnancy.
Some sources say that adequate intake of folate can cut the risk of birth defects by as much as 70%.
Might Cure Hangover
Since artichokes have a beneficial effect on the liver, they might help cure hangovers. But we want to tell you that the evidence is inconclusive. In fact, one study states how ineffective artichoke extract was for curing hangovers. So, we suggest you talk to an expert before taking artichoke for this reason.
Improve Brain Function
The vitamin K in artichokes does the job here. This vitamin protects the neurons in the brain from damage. And this can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s as well. Artichokes also help expand blood vessels, which allows more oxygen to reach the brain.
And then, we have anthocyanins in artichokes, which guard against brain ailments and maintain mental functioning. And the folate in the veggie preserves memory, emotional health, and even helps treat depression.
The leaves of the plant are used medicinally.
Artichokes can also be made into a herbal tea.
It is also used to make a 'Cin Cyn', a slightly less-bitter version of the Negroni cocktail, by substituting Cynar for Campari.
The softer parts of artichokes are also eaten raw, one leaf at the time dipped in vinegar and olive oil, or thinly sliced and dressed with lemon and olive oil.
The leaves are steamed to soften the fleshy base part of each leaf to be used as the basis for any number of side dishes or appetizing dips, or the fleshy part is left attached to the heart, while the upper parts of the leaves are discarded. The remaining concave-shaped heart is often filled with meat, then fried or baked in a savory sauce.
Artichokes (flower portion)are often prepared with white sauces or other kinds of sauces.