Artichokes or "chokes" as they are commonly called, are a member of the thistle family. Artichokes are considered a sensuous vegetable, and the vegetable of the gods. It is believed to be loved by the Greek god Zeus. It is also a favorite of aristocrats and affluent members of society, dating back thousands of years. The Artichokes we eat, are the immature flower bud of the artichoke plant. This tender, young bud is called the "Artichoke heart". If allowed to mature, the bud produces a purple flower. Artichoke hearts can be eaten raw or cooked. They are most often steamed. The heart, or center of the bud, is eaten along with small, tender outer leaves. The stem is also edible, and best cut an inch or so below the bud.Artichoke is native to the Meditteranean and North Africa. Did you know? Artichokes are a member of the Thistle family. Artichokes are grown commercially in the U.S., almost exclusively in California. While it is grown by home gardeners, it is not a common home garden crop. It is also grown around the world.
LIGHTING REQUIREMENTS: USDA hardiness zones: 7 through 11
CARE INSTRUCTIONS WATER: Good drainage is crucial to prevent the roots rotting during cool, damp winters, however the soil must also be able to retain water long enough to allow the roots to take it in, during hot summers.
FERTILIZER: Use a general purpose fertilizer once or twice a season for best performance.
FLOWERING: The flower buds are what are sold in produce aisles. The bracts are tightly folded over the enclosed flower parts. If allowed to open on the plant, mature artichoke flowers open into large, dome- or muffing-shaped, purple thistles that are surprisingly fragrant.
SOIL: They need a well-draining, loamy soil with a good amount of organic matter.
DISEASE: Few pests attack artichokes. Slugs can be a problem during damp weather, especially with younger, tender leaves. Aphids can also become a nuisance, but can be hosed off, before they take over. Botrytis, or gray mold, can affect leaves and flower bracts. It is most pervasive on damaged leaves, which will turn brown and then grayish. Remove affected leaves as soon as the disease is noticed. For severe infections, use a fungicide labeled for edible plants, such as neem.