You might be surprised to discover globe artichokes are an edible thistle. Ancient Roman nobility prized these vegetables, and when dipped in butter and lemon they’re still fit for a king. Globe artichokes are different from similar-sounding plants like Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), Chinese artichokes and Japanese artichokes.
How to Grow Artichokes
There may be as many as 50 different varieties of globe artichokes to choose from, including jumbo to baby size. The flower bud, with its tough petal-shaped leaves, is the most interesting – and delicious – part of the plant. The peak time for globe artichokes is March to May.
- Select annual varieties of globe artichokes for Colorado climates instead of perennial types. Look for short-season varieties (85-95 days).
- Plan on harvesting at least 5 edible flower buds per plant.
- Find a large area in the garden to ensure enough space for planting; plants grow 3-5 feet tall and wide. You could also add a few plants to a front-yard flower border to take up space with show-stopping plants.
- Keep in mind artichoke plants need to spread their roots, so cultivate the soil deeply.
- Amend soil with compost or composted manure to create a rich, fertile loam that’s well-drained.
- Place artichoke transplants into the garden when the soil has warmed to between 45-65 degrees.
- Space plants about 48 inches apart in rows; space rows at least 80 inches apart for best results.
- Add a thick layer of organic mulch, like untreated grass clippings or straw, to prevent weeds from sprouting.
- Artichokes are heavy nitrogen feeders, so fertilize with fish emulsion or worm tea throughout the season.
- Regular, deep watering is especially important while flower buds are forming.
Watch for aphids by checking underneath the outer leaves (bud scales).
- Remove older bud scales and wash away aphids with a blast of water from the garden hose.
- Smaller artichokes are typically more tender than larger globes. There will be a primary bud at the top of the stalk with 2-3 smaller buds on side shoots.
- Harvest artichokes when the flower bud has a tight leaf formation, deep color and feels heavy for its size. Another way to tell if it’s time to harvest is by the old farmer’s test: leaves should squeak when pressed together.
- Cut the artichoke stem straight across, leaving about 2 inches of stem below the flower bud’s base.
- Enjoy as close to harvest as possible or store (unwashed) in plastic bags in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Plant artichokes with these companions:
- Brussels sprouts
Materials for Success
- Large quantity of high-quality compost and/or composted manure
- Fish emulsion or worm tea fertilizer
- Drip irrigation or soaker hose
- Bug Blaster spray attachment to knock down aphids
- Plenty of butter
To learn more about growing artichokes or about growing your own edible vegetable garden, contact the pros at Nick’s Garden Center.