The star of the edible flowers, king of the garden plants, with a succulent heart to fall for!
The globe artichoke is a very interesting vegetable. When my parents started to cook some fresh ones when I was young, I remember that it was not love at first sight. However, I quickly developed a taste for artichoke hearts and I have just loved them ever since. There is nothing like a fresh artichoke (boiled or steamed) as it is very different than those preserved in oil or canned. The texture of the flesh is simply unique. Very delicate is the flavour, this is why it is lovely combined with other very tasty ingredients. Artichoke hearts are delicious on pizza, with creamy pasta, in a salad and just on its own dipped in a sharp tasting dressing. The artichoke, with its origin from the area, has been used in Mediterranean cuisine for a very long time. In Québec, you can find them in the vegetable section all year in most supermarkets (imported), but they can be pricy. There are a few farms producing them in the province, but they can only be cultivated as annuals as the artichoke is not adapted for the climate of the Canadian winter. In Australia, many varieties of artichoke plants can be cultivated as perennials and I can say they are very hardy as I’ve been growing them successfully in the cool climate region where we live. Sadly, I can only enjoy fresh ones in season once a year in spring, as I have never found them in our regional grocery shops. They are maybe unusual to some here, but I’ve noticed other gardeners and growers producing them recently. The rest of the year I can find some commercially preserved ones, which can also be easy and delicious to add in some recipes, salads or grazing platters.
Various homegrown artichoke photos • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2016-19
GROWING & COOKING TIPS
Growing artichoke is quite easy if you live in the right climate and have enough space for it. One plant will produce 4 to 6 buds (sometimes more) each spring and survive winters that do not go down to much under 0 degrees. As a perennial, it does not require a great deal of care once established but a major thing to look at is pest control. I do this naturally by growing coriander, borage and leek all around it. If the artichoke plant is happy where it has been positioned, it can live for years and produce many suckers. I planted my first artichoke on the farm where I first lived in Batlow (five years ago), and the plant is still huge and producing very well. Lucky me, the owner is my mother-in-law and she still saves me all the buds (I’m the only one loving it in my Aussie fam)! I also grow other varieties where I live now in Tumbarumba, including a purple-ish one, proudly cultivated from seed. It is a very spiky one though, the spines hurt like a cactus!
The artichoke bud and flower • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2018-2019
When you know how little the edible portion of a bud is, and how this is very little compared to the plant size, one meter high at least, harvested once a year, you understand its high value much better. You also really have to love artichokes to grow them in a smaller backyard. But on the plus side, if only grown for ornamental purposes, it is also worth it. When the artichoke bloom opens up it is too late to harvest for eating, but the flower is quite spectacular. The stunning large purple flower makes a great amusement park for bees. I usually leave the last one to them. When harvesting, the artichoke needs to be at least as big as a tennis ball and the stem cut about 8 cm off the bud. It is best to cook when fresh but can be stored in the fridge crisper for a few days. Once cooked, it is better to eat soon, or the next day the latest. The edible parts of the artichoke contain high levels of antioxidants and various health benefits, another great reason to fall in love with it. If you have never prepared or tasted it, try this Boiled Artichoke basic recipe with more instructions on basic preparation. This is a really good treat for spring!
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