A Delicious Thistle – The Artichoke

An artichoke (Cynara scolymus or C. cardunculus) is a giant thistle which becomes a beautiful flower. Well, it could become a beautiful flower–if we didn’t pick it as a flower bud and eat it as a vegetable.

Artichokes, native to the Mediterranean region, were later introduced to Southern Europe and Asia. The artichoke has dramatic and sculptured gray green foliage that is very attractive in your vegetable garden. In fact, this vegetable is beautiful in your ornamental garden, too!

An artichoke’s overall form is almost like a fountain and needs up to 4 feet of space for full growth. It likes full sun, cooler temperatures and moist soil. If you live in a very hot zone, plant it in the shade. Mulch under the plant to help maintain the moisture that it loves.

At planting time, plant dormant roots or young plants with the root shoots just above the soil level and then mulch. Water at least once a week, keeping the root system moist.

Aphids, snails, slugs, and earwigs tend to be the artichoke “pest of the day.” Blast the aphids and earwigs off with water.

The best time to harvest your artichokes is once the edible flower buds are 2-4 inches in diameter. Cut off the bud, including 1.5 inches of stem with the bud. At the end of the season, cut back the old bearing stems/foliage to near ground level and mulch around the remaining plant. Don’t forget to give your artichokes a well-balanced fertilizer.

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