I planted seeds of artichokes last winter in tiny six-packs. I really never expected them to sprout because most gardeners feel it is best to start them from rootstock purchased from nurseries. In retrospect, I should have given some of the seeds away. What does one do with 36 small artichoke plants? I eventually transplanted six in the garden and passed the rest out at a plant exchange.
Contrary to popular belief, artichokes (Cynara scolymus) are not in the thistle family, but in the sunflower family. They grow wild in their native North Africa. While they will be the last plant to survive in an abandoned garden in a vacant lot, they typically grow larger and bloom more prolifically in good garden soil with ample water.
They are difficult to grow in areas where winters are cold and summers are hot. But in temperate climates with cool humid days, they are in their element! I’m always looking for easy-to-grow vegetables to grow in our cool, coastal climate, and artichokes are among them! The plants need space and can grow to 3-4 feet and send up as many as twelve stalks. Each stalk bears three or more artichokes.
Artichoke buds are ready to harvest when growing has ceased and before the scales begin to open. You can see that I waited too long for the ones I cut yesterday, and they will probably be tough to eat. But they are certainly pretty! Some folks who are not all that fond of eating artichokes, let them flower in the garden for the sheer joy of viewing their purple splendor.