Artichoke Growing Guide

Artichoke

Artichoke is a cultivated thistle grown for its edible flower buds that are either green or purple depending on the variety. Artichoke buds must be harvested before the bud begins to bloom. Most Artichoke plants are perennial, although some varieties can be grown as annuals. The plant will grow between 2–7′ tall,  with silver to green leaves. The flower buds grow 3–6″ in diameter with spiny scales. Both the base of the bud and the fleshy lower half of each scale can be eaten. Plants will produce numerous buds, particularly if harvested regularly.

  • BOTANICAL NAME: Cynara scolymus
  • PLANT TYPE: Vegetable
  • GROWTH CYCLE:  Annual Perennial
  • SEASON: Spring Fall Winter
  • USDA ZONE: 4-11b
  • LIGHT: Full Sun
  • SOIL TYPE: Loamy Sandy
  • YIELD: 1–4 lbs. per plant
  • SQUARE FEET: One plant per 3–5' square
  • GERMINATION: 10-15 days
  • HARVEST: 120-800 days
  • SOIL GERMINATION TEMPERATURE: 60–80°F
  • SOW INDOORS: 6–10 weeks before average last spring frost.
  • SOW OUTDOORS: Not recommended

SEED

Seed should be stratified by placing in a freezer for a week or two before planting. This tricks the plant into thinking it’s already survived a winter, making it produce more buds in its first year. When stored properly seed can be saved 6 years.

CLIMATE 

Grown as an annual in climate USDA zone 7 and below,  as a perennial in Zones 7–11. Artichokes are Mediterranean natives and best suited to a humid climate with cool days and nights and mild winters. Your chokes will appreciate frost protection during the winter months. 

LIGHT

Full sun. Will tolerate partial shade.

SOIL

Prefers a well-drained fertile, loamy, or sandy soil with a pH range between 6.5–8  

 CARE

Water: Requires a moderate to heavy watering to imitate the moist climate they naturally prefer. Although somewhat drought tolerant, they’ll have a greater yield when kept evenly moist, especially while the buds are forming.

Nutrients: Artichokes require high levels of nutrients. When planting or transplanting, add well-rotted composted manure or a complete organic fertilizer. Artichokes should be fed every 2–3 weeks during active growth periods, using fish emulsion, compost tea, or a side-dressing of compost and cottonseed meal around the base of the plant.

Foliage: Spray greens with compost or manure tea every 3 weeks if desired.

Pruning: For perennial crops, remove less vigorous plants after the first year to get a 5–6′ spacing between plants. In late fall, prune artichoke to 8–12″ above soil level to prepare for winter dormancy

Mulching: During the growing season, keep soil mulched to help retain moisture. In late fall, after pruning plants, cover base with a layer of mulch and straw to protect artichokes from winter frosts. The plants should overwinter and send up new shoots from the root base in the spring. In extremely cold climates, cover this first layer of mulch with an inverted wooden box or barrel, and mulch over the box as well to provide extra protection.

PESTS

  • Aphids
  • Earwigs

DISEASE

  • Artichokes are usually disease-free.

DEFICIENCIES

Deficiencies can be caused by a low soil pH. To raise pH, amend with lime. The best time to add lime is in the fall or winter, when it will have a chance to break down during the plant’s dormancy. You can use dolomitic or calcitic lime as well as wood ash. Soils that are deficient in calcium will result in a reduced yield of artichokes.

CROP ROTATION

Avoid growing artichokes where sunflowers have previously as they can be susceptible to the same diseases. 

HARVEST 

When flower buds have reached full size , just before they begin to open, cut them from the plant about 1″ below their base. The smaller they are, the more tender they will be. When grown as an annual, harvest in the late fall. When grown as a perennial, late spring will be the main harvest.

STORAGE

Store in the refrigerator for up to 2–3 weeks. Artichokes store best in high humidity. If you rub the cut end with a lemon, it will prevent discoloration of the stem

PRESERVE

Artichokes can be pickled for long-term preservation. Use a pressure canner if canning fresh. Artichokes can also be frozen but only after they have been cooked by boiling or steaming. Add lemon juice to the water while cooking to prevent discoloration

PREPARE

 To prepare, outer leaves are removed until you reach the tender light yellow-green inner leaves. You can cut off the tips of the spiky leaves. The fuzzy central flower bud, called the choke, is removed and discarded before cooking. Trim the stem to the base of the remaining leaves, then steam or boil the artichoke. If you want to cook a whole artichoke, it can be wrapped in foil and baked. You can add chopped garlic in between the leaves of the bud. To eat, simply remove each leaf and eat the fleshy part of the leaf where it was attached to the stalk. When you reach the center of the artichoke, scrape the choke off the the base and enjoy the heart of the artichoke.

NUTRITION

Artichokes are high in dietary fiber and antioxidants. The bitter compounds found in artichokes help to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood. Fresh artichokes are a good source of folic acid, vitamin(s) C, K, B, antioxidants, and flavonoids. They also provide necessary dietary minerals including copper, calcium, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus Nutrition Facts

MEDICINAL

Artichokes have traditionally been used in the treatment of constipation, indigestion, high triglycerides, liver disorders, gallstones, dyspepsia, and high cholesterol. It is used as a part of detoxification programs for treating chronic conditions related to liver and kidney function, liver disease, arthritis, and gout. A tea is brewed from the leaves. Artichokes contain cynarin, the active ingredient known to protect the liver, lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and treat indigestion.

VARIETIES

There are more than 140 artichoke varieties. Artichokes come in three sizes: Baby, Medium and Jumbo. Baby artichokes weigh 2 or 3 ounces, while jumbo artichokes can weigh as much as 20 ounces. Varieties

WARNING

Individuals with allergies to plants in the Asteraceae family will want to avoid consuming artichokes without first consulting with a healthcare provider, as you may be allergic.

PLANT YOUR ZONE               -         Cooperative Extension Service By State

The Artichokes is a perennial in the south, so plant it outside in the fall. It usually doesn't produce fruits until the second year so it's recommended to start inside no matter what so you can get fruits in the first year. 

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