The Ever Versatile Artichoke Vegetable Seeds
Artichokes have a reputation as a gourmet vegetable, even though in southern Europe they are eaten as a day-to-day food. Their reputation probably has more to do with cooking them than growing them, since when it comes to growing vegetables, they are an easy crop. Because they have been grown for centuries they are one of the most popular vegetable seeds.
You can grow artichokes as an annual or as a perennial in the vegetable garden. If you live in Zones 6 to 9 it is easy to grow as a perennial but in cooler zones it may not survive the winter so it is best grown as an annual.
The ‘Green Globe Artichoke’ is one of the classic heirloom vegetable seeds, which is hardy and easy to grow.
To grow as a perennial, sow the seeds directly in the ground after the last frost date. Choose a sunny position for this crop. Bury two or three seeds an inch deep over a hole you have filled with a mixture of compost and soil. Remove the extra seedlings, leaving one plant. Artichokes are large plants so allow three or four feet between the plants.
For an annual crop start the seeds indoors in February. Place one seed per cell in a cell-pack tray and transplant into larger pots as the plants grow. Provide as much light as possible and use a liquid fertilizer regularly. Plant out the seedlings after the last frost date, in the same way as for direct seeding.
Plants from an early indoor sowing will bloom in the fall, while perennial plantings will bloom in early summer of the next year. They will continue for several years – the flowers will gradually become more numerous but smaller each year.
A great thing about artichokes is that the plants are so beautiful, with their large, grey-green, toothed leaves and spectacular flowers that they can leave the vegetable garden and be grown among your flowers. They are a wonderful ornamental flower as well as an edible plant. Grown that way they leave more room in your vegetable garden for growing vegetables.
Harvesting and Eating Artichokes
The edible part of the artichoke is the flower. Harvest the flowers when they are large but not yet open. Any you don’t want for the kitchen can be left to flower – an electric pink/purple clump will emerge from the head – and the seeds are popular with wild birds too. So with artichokes, growing vegetables happens all over the garden.
Artichokes are usually boiled or steamed, but they can also be roasted in the oven.
Trim the leaves horizontally to remove the spiny tips. Make a cross-cut in the top and insert a clove of garlic. Drizzle with lemon juice, a little olive oil, and sprinkle with coarse salt. Wrap tightly in two thicknesses of tin-foil and bake in a 425o oven for an hour to an hour-and-a-half if they are very large. Let cool in the foil and eat with a dipping sauce of equal parts mayonnaise and sour cream flavoured with finely chopped green onion and capers.