Globe artichokes (Cynara scolymus) are large, architectural perennial plants, which are grown for their large edible flower buds and ornamental enough for the flower garden. They can be grown from seed or young plants, are easy to cook and are delicious!
Sow seed in March and April 13mm (0.5in) deep in a seedbed, sowing two or three seeds per station, with 25-30cm (10-12in) in and between the rows. Thin to leave the strongest seedling.
Alternatively sow seeds in 7.5cm (3in) pots of good compost. Seed-raised plants tend to be variable and spiny, but when good plants occur, suckers (shoots arising from a plant’s root system) can be taken.
Some cultivars are maintained by suckers and, although rather costly, are generally superior to seed-raised plants.
Plants can also be propagated from rooted suckers, bought or taken from established plants from March-April. They should be healthy, 20-30cm (8-12in) long with at least two shoots.
They can also be bought as container-grown plants.
They grow best in any good garden soil.
Transplant to their permanent position when they are large enough to handle, with at least five true leaves, allowing 60-90cm (2-3ft) between plants. Water in well.
Seed-grown plants usually flower the year of sowing.
To keep stock young and vigorous, divide plants every two to three years and plant at the same spacing as seeds.
Keep crops weed free, mulch with well-rotted manure or similar in spring when the soil is warm and moist. Feed with 70g per sq m of general fertiliser such as Growmore or similar in spring, to increase yields.
Water during dry weather.
In cold areas, cover plants with a mulch of straw, compost or well-rotted manure in late autumn, to protect them during cold winter weather.
They become more prolific each year until, after several years, they run out of steam and the planting needs to be renewed.
Remove buds – ideally when they reach the size of a golf ball - with a pair of secateurs from July, before they open and start to flower.
After harvesting the main head, secondary heads appear, these too can be harvested, when large enough.
Cooking tips: Boil or steam immature heads until tender, drain, remove the leaf scales one by one, dip them in melted butter, vinaigrette or Hollandaise sauce and then suck out the juicy flesh from each scale. Finish off with the succulent base. Mature flowers take longer to cook and are less flavoursome, but can be cooked and consumed in the same way. Delicious!
‘Vert de Laon’: Hardy with an excellent flavour.
‘Green globe’: Large green heads with thick, fleshy scales. Needs winter protection in cooler areas.
‘Purple Sicilian’: Small, deep purple buds, which are excellent for eating raw, when young. Not frost hardy.
Slugs: These common pests damage to growing tips, and defoliate plants. They are most active at night and after rainfall.
Remedy: Protect vulnerable plants by hunting for pests by torchlight on mild, damp night, or by burying beer traps. Do this easily by half-filling a jar with beer and sinking into the ground. Use slug pellets containing ferric phosphate.
Read more information on slugs
Aphids: The heads of globe artichokes can become infested. In most cases the damage can be tolerated.
Remedy: Use your finger and thumb to squash aphid colonies. In most cases you won’t need to spray, but you could use pyrethrum, plant or fish oils or thiacloprid.
Read more information on aphids