Artichokes for beauty

Artichokes for beauty

Even if you do not often eat them, I’ll bet you would like the way they add elegance to your garden spaces. The oh-so-interesting artichoke is simply a showstopper in full bloom. It will spread into a huge silvery green fountain-shaped vegetable. And you could try dipping those artichoke leaves into some butter and then eating that tender artichoke heart. The artichoke is a goldmine of rich, earthy, hearty flavor.

According to the Texas Agri-Life Extension Service, the artichoke has been cultivated and enjoyed since the time of the Romans. It is a nutritious vegetable and a beautiful landscape plant. Plants can reach 3 feet in height and width and the flower can be 7 inches in diameter if you let them bloom.

Artichokes (members of the thistle family) are perennials in warm climates and need the best soil possible. Manure, compost and other organic matter are great for mixing into the soil before you plant. The artichoke, or Cynera scolymus, can be grown almost everywhere in the United States. They want cool and moist and mild temperatures, so are best grown here in early spring or fall. The lucky folks in the Artichoke Zone in California harvest artichokes all year and often get 30 artichokes per year, per plant.

The bud, or immature flower, is the part of the artichoke that you harvest and eat. The edible part of the bud is the tender base of the leaves (or bracts), and the fleshy area where the flowers grow from. They don’t reproduce true from seed so look for root divisions, which are available online and at some better nurseries. Also, if you find a healthy existing artichoke plant, you can dig up the root and divide it into two or more parts and replant.

While growing, the artichokes “feed heavily” and need lots of extra nutrients. Apply fish emulsion or bone meal or other organic fertilizer regularly. Water extra well and keep the planting bed moist. Plan on your artichoke plant impressing you with its lovely size. They do need plenty of space to grow. Avoid planting them near tree roots. The artichoke has deep roots and needs room to spread.

Texas Agri-Life adds that several varieties of artichokes are best for Texas growers: Green Globe standard, Imperial Star, Harmony, Madrigal, Emerald, Grand Beurre, Talpiot and Purple Sicilian. If you want to try your hand at growing these lovely plants, please search “Agri-Life Extension Texas A&M Easy Gardening-Artichokes” for an in-depth primer. Such a pretty plant!