Until relatively recently, it seemed the only time one saw artichokes were; the Globe variety on a market stall in the South of France, the Jerusalem variety in American history books, where it is recorded as an important food source for Native Americans, or the Chinese variety on takeaway menus.
The three are very different; globe artichokes are basically the flower head of the plant, whereas Chinese Artichoke & Jerusalem Artichoke come from the roots of the plant.
However, word has spread and all types have increased in popularity, so, particularly for ‘foodies’, learning how to grow artichokes is now recognised as a worthwhile endeavour.
Here we give you a few tips and hints on how to grow three different types of Artichokes.
Growing Chinese Artichokes
Optimum pH 6.0-6.5
The Chinese artichoke is a little known perennial, which can be eaten either raw, steamed, stir fried, rather like you can with carrots.
However, like the Jerusalem artichoke, it yields in abundance once it is established and the ground must be thoroughly cleaned to avoid unwelcome ‘volunteer’ growth the following season. It is a tuberous rooted perennial but is usually treated as an annual crop.
No named cultivars are on record. The tubers are ivory or white in colour.
This crop demands a fertile but light-textured soil, ideally one that has been enriched for a previous crop with generous applications of compost and manure. A handful or two of 2:3:2 (1 – 2 oz) per square yard will assist in getting the plants off to a good start.
When this crop is relegated to a poor corner of the garden, and this often happens, the tubers produced are small and hardly worth the trouble of preparing for the table, so rather place them in a spot with plenty of sunlight although they can also flourish in shade.
Propagation of Chinese Artichokes
This is by tubers only, which may be extremely difficult to obtain if the crop is being grown for the first time.
Planting Chinese Artichoke Tubers
The seed tubers can be planted with a hand trowel or in a drill opened to a depth of 3 – 4 inches with a spade or hoe.
A distance of 9 – 12 inches should be allowed between plants in the row and 18 inches between rows. Spring is the best period for planting.
Tips For Growing Artichokes
This is an easy to manage crop once it is established. Regular routine control of weeds along with some occasional earthing up of the plants are about the only activities necessary. However, a liquid feed once the crop is growing will assist the plants to achieve their full height of around 18 inches.
A mulch will ensure that the soil is kept moist and thereby assist in the production of good-sized tubers that are up to 3 inches long and an inch thick. Hot, dry ground often results in small, shrivelled and bitter tubers.
Harvesting Chinese Artichokes
The tubers should mature between 5 and 7 months after planting. The plant enters dormancy during winter, the best time to harvest is anytime during fall and winter, when they should be lifted with a fork and used as required. They will shrivel quickly if left out of the ground for any length of time.
Because of their shape it is impossible to peel or scrape them satisfactorily and they are best prepared by scrubbing.
Pests and Diseases
No specific pests and diseases are on record.
How to Grow Globe Artichokes
Southern Europe and Mediterranean
Optimum pH 6.5
The globe artichoke is not widely grown, partly because it is unknown to many gardeners but also because of the difficulty in obtaining selected planting material. Its low yield per square yard also counts against it. In larger gardens, however, a row of 8-12 plants situated on the edge of the garden will provide something different for the table and will at the same time, owing to its habit and height (4 ft average), provide a protective and attractive border.
Apart from good planting material, the three main factors influencing success are maximum sunlight, well-manured soil and good drainage.
The globe artichoke is a herbaceous perennial and the edible portion is the immature flower bud, particularly the fleshy lower scales and the base.
Recommended Globe Artichoke Cultivars
A cultivar with a purplish tinge.
Soil Preparation For Growing Globe Artichokes
Although plantings may produce in their first year, the harvest will improve in subsequent years, and they can remain productive for 4-5 years, the second and third years being the most productive. As the plants need wide spacing in order to develop fully it is more economical on manuring and fertilizing materials to prepare separate planting stations for each plant, especially since only a few plants are usually maintained.
The planting stations, which should be approx. 3 feet apart and well dug over to a depth of 10 inches, should each be improved with a good forkful or two of mature compost or manure plus a handful (2 oz) of 2:3:2. These materials should all be thoroughly mixed in with the topsoil and each station should be shaped like a shallow dish, trodden lightly, watered and then allowed to settle for a week or so before the plants are set out.
How To Propagate Globe Artichokes
If no good vegetable planting material is available, the initial planting stock will have to be raised from seed. Unfortunately the globe artichoke is one of those difficult vegetables that does not produce seed that is uniformly true to type.
Therefore, once the first seedlings have matured, it is advisable to make subsequent plantings from the suckers of plants bearing desirable characteristics in terms of vigour, yield, size and shape.
Out of a dozen plants or so, perhaps only one will be worth propagating from.
How To Propagate Globe Artichokes From Seed
The seeds are best started indoors if possible using bright grow lights between late January to early February.
Planting Globe Artichoke Seedlings
The seedlings are usually large enough to be moved to their prepared planting stations 3-5 months after sowing. Suckers or off-shoots can be removed from the parent plant with a portion of root, trimmed back to 10 inches if necessary, planted firmly and watered thoroughly.
March/April plantings give consistently good results. The removal of 2-3 suckers from the parent plant does not appear to have any effect on subsequent growth and yield.
It is always best to discard only half the mature plants at a time so that one always has a continuity of supply from vigorous plants.
How To Care For Globe Artichokes While Growing
Once established, the plants require much less attention than most vegetables. Almost all that is necessary is the regular removal of weeds and of dead lower leaves. An effective mulch will reduce even further the attention required.
After all the buds from a stem have been harvested, the stem should be cut back to soil level to encourage further growth to develop and thereby extend the season.
Artichokes such as these produce an impressive amount of biomass, i.e. leaves and stems etc. which is very useful for your compost pile.
Dressings of compost or manure are perhaps the best materials for maintaining plant vigour over several seasons, although an application of nitrogen or 3:2:1 at the rate of 2 – 3 oz per plant in spring will invariably bring a favourable response from the plants.
The fertilizer should be broadcast in a wide band 6 inches away from the plant and should be hoed in shallowly.
How To Harvest Globe Artichokes
At the end of the first year’s growth from seed, or 6-7 months after propagating from suckers, a few edible buds may be produced. These can be harvested when young or cut and discarded. The second and third years usually produce the heaviest yields and the buds should be cut with pruning shears, taking with the bud 3 – 4 inches of stem, before the scales open to any degree.
Should the buds be allowed to develop they will grow into purple flowers up to 6 inches across. Like all vegetables they are best when eaten fresh, but surpluses can be stored by deep-freezing or canning.
Pests and Diseases of Globe Artichokes
Aphids, usually black in colour on this crop, are frequently troublesome during hot weather. They congregate in large numbers on the furry undersides of the leaves, particularly the lower ones, and large infestations often build up before damage is apparent.
Malathion is effective to control this pest.
Diseases are unlikely to be troublesome.
Growing Jerusalem Artichokes
Optimum pH 6.0-6.5
The Jerusalem artichoke is, as can be seen from its generic name, a member of the sunflower family. Indeed, its common name ‘Jerusalem’ is thought to be a corruption of the Italian ‘girasole’, which means ‘turning to the sun’.
It is not related to the globe artichoke. The edible portion is the tuber, the flavour of which is said to be best when it is cooked whole and not peeled.
However, like the parsnip, the flavour is not to everyone’s liking, and in some countries this vegetable is regarded as pig food!
Cultivars Of Jerusalem Artichokes
By careful selection of the tubers and plants the gardener himself can improve to a considerable degree the material generally available.
You can find these tubers in the wild quite easily in many places. There are several different varieties of various colors, the white being more common and desirable because of its delicate flavour.
Soil Preparation For Growing Jerusalem Artichokes
This vegetable grows to a height of over 6 ft in favourable conditions and has large leaves 6 – 8 inches in length. It should therefore be allocated accommodation on the perimeter of the garden where it cannot shade other plants.
The soil should be well dug over and compost or manure, plus 1 handful of superphosphate per square yard, should be incorporated. In the absence of organic material, at least 2 – 3 oz of 2:3:2 per square yard should be worked in.
How To Propagate Jerusalem Artichokes
This is by tubers, replanted annually. Material for initial plantings can be difficult to obtain.
Once a crop is established, however, there will be a plentiful supply of planting material.
How To Plant Jerusalem Artichokes
This is usually done in October/November.
The planting procedure is very similar to that of potatoes. The tubers can be set out 12 – 16 inches apart in the row at a depth of 3 to 5 inches, depending upon soil type.
About 3 feet should be allowed between rows.
Tips For Growing Jerusalem Artichokes
Little further attention need be given apart from the routine task of removing weeds by hoeing shallowly.
As the plants grow some soil can be drawn up to them.
Because of their height and habit the plants need to be staked to avoid damage by wind and heavy rain.
Any damage to the stems before the plants are mature will reduce yields appreciably.
When To Harvest Jerusalem Artichokes
The tubers can be lifted, as required, from late autumn onwards, depending upon planting time and growing conditions.
Smooth tubers around 3 oz (those the size of a small egg) can be selected and set aside in a cool, dry place to provide planting material for the following season.
The selection of seed tubers from high-yielding plants producing good-sized tubers, nicely shaped, is a worthwhile exercise that will help to ensure the success of future crops.
Pests and Diseases Of Jerusalem Artichokes
No specific pests or diseases appear to trouble this crop
Conclusion of How to Grow Artichokes
We feel that once you know how to grow artichokes, and have successfully harvested a few crops, you will find it a much easier task than you may have thought initially. So, get busy and start to grow those artichokes now!