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Good Life Garden

Artichoke

Cynara scolymus
Spring & early fall

In Our Garden


Imperial Star
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.

Green globe
This variety produces large green artichokes that are tender and flavorful.

In History

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.

Cultivation

Growing Tips:
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.

Harvesting Tips:
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.

Why It's Good for You

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.

Let's Eat

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.

 

Pest Management


Here is a list of common pests and diseases that may affect your artichokes in California. For more information follow the link provided to the University of California Integrated Pest Management website.
  • Painted Lady Butterfly Larvae
    These little critters are not usually very damaging, but if they have their way thistle is their snack of choice…
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  • Artichoke plume moth
    Native to the Pacific and Texas coasts, this nocturnal brown moth’s larvae bore into the artichoke fruit, blemishing the scales, stem and foliage…
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  • Damping off
    This refers to the collapse of seedlings and young plants. This is not a disease that is dependent on insects, but rather it is the resulting effect of pathogens that occur naturally in the soil…
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  • Gray mold (Botrytis rot)
    With a preference for damp, cold environments, plants infected with this fungus become noticeably soft and water-soaked…
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  • Aphids
    In the early 19th century, the Phylloxera aphid wiped out the grape production throughout Western Europe. Aphids are extremely prolific, producing upwards of 20 generations in one season. They live in dense populations, and when living situations become too stressed they can flee by growing wings…
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  • Powdery mildew
    Its spores travel on the wind and thrive in the warm, dry California sun. This is not where you would usually expect mildew to linger…
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  • Curly dwarf virus
    As the name suggests, plant growth is stunted by this virus, which is usually transmitted by the movement of aphids and leafhoppers.
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  • Snails & Slugs
    These garden gastronomes have a notorious taste for succulent flowers, foliage and ripening fruit --- with such a refined taste, it’s no wonder they are so delectable bathed in garlic butter!
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  • Cutworm
    Night-feeding larvae that burrow into the soil during the day make their presence known by severing plant stems and chomping away at the foliage and buds of just about any crop…
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