Most people who have seen my garden this season have asked me what the giant thistle is. Believe it or not, the plant is a giant thistle better known as a globe artichoke. Each year, I try to plant one or two things that I have never grown before. In the past, this has included kholrabi, fennel and broccoli raab. After the Notorious B. I. G. (Brooklyn Italian Grandmother) made fried artichokes for us, I decided that the artichoke was going to be in my garden for the first time this season.
The globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) is a perennial thistle of the genus Cynara originating in Southern Europe around the Mediterranean. It grows tall, with arching, deeply lobed, silvery-green leaves 10–20 inches long. The flowers develop in a large head from an edible bud about 3–5 inches in diameter with numerous triangular scales. The individual florets are purple. The edible portion of the buds consists primarily of the fleshy lower portions and the base, known as the “heart”; the mass of immature florets in the center of the bud is called the “choke” or beard. These are inedible in older larger flowers.
I grew my plants from seeds under the grow light in the basement. The seeds are a variety known as Imperial Star. Specifically bred for annual production, Imperial Star produces artichokes the first season from seed. Typically 6-8 mature buds, averaging 3-4 inches in diameter, are grown per plant. Imperial Star plants grow 3-4 feet tall.
My artichoke plants in the garden have really flourished. They seem to grow every hot and humid day that we have. So far, they have required little, if any, special attention. The next phase should be the flowering of the plants and then the formation of the artichoke that we know and can eat. I’ll keep you posted on our fun new find as the plants continue to mature during this gardening season.
P. S. – for those of you who read the cabbage murder mystery post, notice my sad cabbage plants in the back of this picture. As well, notice the bowl of beer or as we call it in my garden, the slug’s swimming pool. Not looking good for some home-grown cabbage this year!!