Spring & early fall
This variety is characterized by its ability to produce an abundance of large tender globes within 60-90 days of its first season, yielding 3 times the fruit of older artichoke varieties.
This variety produces large green artichokes that are tender and flavorful.
The common name comes from the Italian word cocali which means pinecone.
The artichoke is the large flower bud of a type of thistle native to the Mediterranean region. It was likely developed from the cardoon which has small buds and whose base and stems were eaten in ancient Greece. The name is a corruption, via Italian, of the Arabic al’qarshuf meaning “little cardoon.”
Cultivated by both the ancient Greeks and Romans, artichokes gained popularity after being introduced to France by Catherine de Medici in the 16th century. A few hundred years later they were brought to Half Moon Bay by Italian immigrants where they planted a few hundred acres.
Imperial Star artichokes may be grown as a perennial in cool climate, an annual in cold climates or as an ornamental plant when globes do not form. They also make a great addition to artful floral arrangements!
A cool season crop requiring plenty of sunlight and large amounts of water, artichokes also need shelter from frost.
With an appetite for nitrogen rich soil, it is wise to lay down lots of compost for this heavy feeder.
Each flowering stem produces one large artichoke at the tip and several smaller ones below. Harvest the central bud first, when scales are tightly closed and the globe is about the size of an orange. The stem should still be supple 2 inches beneath the globe. Avoid using artichokes that have already begun to open as they will be tough in texture.
After harvesting, be sure to cut the artichoke stem to the ground as new shoots will emerge from the old stump.
This flower bud from the thistle family contains a flavonoid called silymarin, which works as an antioxidant helping to protect artery walls from damaging LDL-cholesterol.
A chemical compound found in artichokes called cynarin inhibits the sweet receptors on our tongues, so desserts will taste especially sweet when followed by a course including these members of the lettuce family.
Artichokes are also used to produce the Italian bitter liqueur, Cynar.
How to Buy:
Choose artichokes which are vibrant and free of discoloration. Make sure that they are tightly closed --- an artichoke that has begun to open will have a tough and undesirable texture. To ensure a fresh artichoke always check the bottom of the stem as it is a good indication of when the vegetable was harvested.
How to Store:
For the best flavor eat artichokes within a few days of purchasing as they lose their flavor intensity over time.
How to Prepare:
Artichokes are suitable for canning, drying or freezing whole. They require some preparation, but are well worth the effort. Wash the artichoke, trimming off the lower leaves and most of the stem. Cut off the top quarter of the artichoke, and trim the pointy ends of the remaining outer leaves. If you don’t plan to cook the artichoke right away, dip it in lemon water to avoid browning.