Native to the Mediterranean region, the globe artichoke is finding increasing popularity among gardeners in the damp mild coastal regions of this country. Generally three to five feet tall, this coarse, herbaceous perennial has large, lobed leaves to three feet long and good-sized heads that take on a violet shade as they ripen. The base of the scales of the unripe flower head, along with the bottom part of the artichoke, is eaten either cooked or raw.
Artichokes are best planted as started seedlings in trenches eight inches deep, lined with one inch of compost or rotted manure. While it does best in rich sandy loam, the artichoke will grow on any kind of soil, so long as it is trenched, pulverized and well manured. Plant roots five to six inches below the surface, cover with soil and tamp firmly. When plants are six inches tall, mulch heavily to preserve moisture. Cut away all but six of the suckers that develop at the base when plant reaches eight inches and transplant the suckers to make a new row. Plant these singly two feet apart, in rows at least four feet apart, or in groups of three in triangles, at least four feet apart in the row. Protect the young suckers with hot caps, evergreen boughs or some other protecting material. Cut plants back to the ground in fall. In cool areas, protect through the winter with an inverted bushel basket with leaves.
During dry weather furnish artichokes with copious amounts of manure water or compost tea. Deep, thorough watering is best, followed by a liberal mulching of half-rotted manure between the rows.
Crops are produced in spring in warmer areas; in summer farther north. Halfway through the growing season, apply a small handful of fertilizer around the base of each plant, and repeat after harvest. When harvesting, cut with one inch of stem. The preferred method of preparing artichokes is to harvest a head while still green and unopened, when it is about the size of an orange. Heads are placed in a pot of cold water, salted and cooked for 45 minutes after the water has begun to boil. Individual leaves are then picked off and eaten one by one, starting at the outside. The thickened bottom portion of the leaf is dipped in melted butter or basil vinaigrette and its fleshy part stripped between the teeth. When all the leaves have been eaten and the hairy “choke” at the heart removed, the meaty and delicious artichoke heart—the best part of the plant—reveals itself.
The variety most commonly grown in this country is large Green Globe, which normally buds in its second year.
Although it bears a slight resemblance in taste, the globe artichoke is completely unrelated to the Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthustuberosus), a North American sunflower.