By GEOFF MIERS
Globe artichokes are easy to grow, will produce for several years, are a real delicacy in the kitchen and are so easy to both grow and prepare for eating.
The globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus) is in reality a cultivated thistle originally from the Mediterranean region. It was used as a food by the ancient Greeks and Romans, was introduced to England by the Dutch in 1530 and in the 19th century it was first introduced to America.
It is a perennial plant capable of growing for many years, is quite a large plant and will grow to 1 to 1.5 metres in height and 1 to 1.2 metres wide. It has large leaves that are smooth and grey-green on the upper surface and covered with a whitish down on the under-side.
It is a most attractive architectural form plant and can be planted in the vegetable garden or in other areas of the garden, remembering it is quite a large plant occupying a fair space. It is quite a stunning looking plant.
It enjoys a warm spot, resents severe sub-zero frosty nights (throw a blanket over the plant to protect it) and likes moist well draining soils that have been prepared a couple of weeks in advance with a good blend of animal manure blended into the soil at the rate of 1.5 kilograms per square metre. It certainly grows well in Central Australia.
Planted now the artichoke plant will settle, commence putting on new growth and with good management it will be producing food in autumn.
They are quite hungry feeders and enjoy being fed monthly with a balanced organic fertiliser like Grow-Better or Blood and Bone. These fertilisers should be applied at the rate of 25 to 50 grams per square metre monthly.
Globe artichokes should be available from your local nursery or they can be grown from seed. The usual way to propagate globe artichokes is to plant off-shoots or root sections selected from high yielding plants.
You need to pull the off-shoots from established plants when the leaves are from 40 to 60cm long and prune each off-shoot back to about 15cm. Off-shoots are best planted in autumn 75 cms apart in rows 1.5 metres apart.
Plants should produce for four to seven years particularly if two to four of the strongest off-shoots are selected annually in early autumn for replanting.
They grow well when the soil has been well conditioned with a balanced organic fertiliser.
Once mature it’s important to feed the plants with potash as this will promote flowering, thus the production of flowering buds the part of the plant we eat. The potash will induce bud production and will improve the quality of the globe.
Harvest the globes twice a week from early spring to mid summer. Select those which have reached full size but have not started to open and cut the stems 15 cm below the globes. Secondary buds will emerge from the cut stems.
It is important to select the buds at the right time as over-ripe they are tough and inedible. Once the globes have been harvested they should be stored in the crisper in the fridge.
There are many ways of preparing globe artichokes. Reference should be made to cooking books or the internet for more information.
Put simply they are quite delicious eaten when steamed having had the outer tough leaves removed. Dipped in a butter or butter and garlic sauce really adds to the delicacy of consuming the globe artichoke.
Managing the plant will ensure the plant lives for several years and continues to produce prolifically.
When the plants become semi-dormant after harvest usually in early to mid summer it’s best to cut them down to within 20 cms of the ground.
Globe artichokes are relatively easy to grow. Find the right location preferably one where they are protected from hard frosts, are fed periodically and pruned as required to stimulate the next seasons growth.
They experience few real pest and disease problems. The most damaging pests are two-spotted mite, snails & slugs, aphides and nematodes. Few diseases affect artichokes.
Grow them in the vegetable garden or scatter them throughout the general garden as they are most attractive plants, give them a little care and they will produce annually for a number of years.
Be brave and broaden your garden experiences, you will not be disappointed once you have introduced globe artichokes into your garden.