While the thought of growing artichokes might be intimidating, I assure you that bringing a taste of the Mediterranean to your garden may be easier than you may have imagined. Artichokes are tasty when served fresh from the garden, and they can be successfully grown even in cooler climates.
If you've never had the pleasure of dipping steamed artichoke leaves in melted raw, organic grass fed butter, and using your teeth to draw out the tender meat, you don't know what you're missing! When all of the leaves have been savored, a further treasure awaits — the rich, earthy taste of the artichoke heart.
Artichokes not only have a taste and texture that is wonderfully unique, but they also contain high amounts of fiber and a myriad of beneficial nutrients, including vitamins C, K and B9 (folate), magnesium and potassium. Artichokes have been shown to help prevent cancer, regulate your blood pressure, promote healthy bowel movements and support your gallbladder, heart and liver. Given their many healthy properties, I encourage you to consider growing artichokes.
Interesting Facts About Artichokes
Native to the Mediterranean region, artichokes (Cynara scolymus) became scarce with the fall of the Roman Empire. After making a comeback in Italy in the 1500s, artichokes were introduced to the Americas by French and Spanish gardeners. California is the biggest producer of artichokes in the U.S. Other interesting facts about artichokes are:1
- Although commonly referred to as a vegetable, artichokes are actually a thistle that is part of the sunflower family
- Artichokes can be grown as either a perennial or an annual; perennial artichoke plants last up to five years
- When you let their buds open and flower, artichokes produce striking bluish-purple flowers that attract pollinators like bees and butterflies
Types of Artichokes
Big Heart: Thornless, slightly purple variety that can handle some heat
Green Globe: Heavy-bearing perennial that does best in ideal growing conditions, including California, where it is grown commercially
Imperial Star: Adaptable and easy to grow from seed as an annual; recommended for gardeners in cooler climates (U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone 6 or lower4)
Purple of Romagna: Italian heirloom favored by chefs for its tenderness and unique nutty taste
Violetto: Oval-shaped Italian heirloom known for producing dozens of small side shoots