Artichoke Madness

Bucket of artichoke flowersIts time to plant your artichokes!!! This article was writen at the end of summer when iw as harvesting them but theres some great advice for planting now, hope you enjoy 🙂

The beauty of the autumn harvest is the reward for all the hard work over summer and the time spent is well worth it. It’s very rewarding bringing the garden to the plate. I have just spent time digging up my Jerusalem artichokes, planted back in spring. Hidden beneath the soil I found literally a bucket load and couldn’t wait to cook them up. Hearty artichoke and leek soup, artichoke chips and artichoke puree are at the top of my list. There are plenty of recipes to experiment with this versatile root vegetable. If you haven’t tasted Jerusalem artichoke I can describe it as ‘parsnip like’ and very tasty. Although commonly call the Jerusalem artichoke it actually has nothing to do with Jerusalem and in fact originates from North America. The botanical name is Helianthus tuberosus, referring to the tubers growing at the base of the plant. This tuberous sunflower is a delight to grow in the garden as the plant boldly reaches eight foot tall and bears happy bright yellow sunflowers. When the flowers begin to die, dig up the roots to eat. I take this time to thin out the crop and keep a few really good tubers in the ground for next year. 6-8 plants will feed a family of 4 quite easily.
Due to the plant growing quite tall it’s important to select your position when planting for the first time as they will shade other plants around them. Use it to your advantage and grow some shade loving plants beneath your artichokes which require some protection from the searing January heat. I like to grow shade loving herbs beneath my artichokes like chives, parsley, spring onions and oregano. Choose a open sunny spot to plant where the soil is full of organic matter but don’t be too worried if you’re still working on your soil as they will grow in poor soil too. Just remember better soil breeds better chokes. The artichoke is seldom attacked by pest or disease a real hardy vegetable to grow over summer that requires no effort on your part. When flowering is finished, prune the leaves and stems, chop them back to the ground and add the pruning’s to your compost heap adding rich carbon waste.
In spring you can plant out Globe artichokes if your heart desires and this elegant version is quite unique. They form a hedge like plant and in this case the flower heads are harvested and eaten. The plants have silver foliage with serrated edges and are perennial which means they will live and produce chokes for more than two years without having to replant. In late summer the plant will slowly die back down to the grown but already the new growth at the base will be appearing. Leave one large flower head and allow it to go brown and dry, as it will develop seed. The seeds can be collected and stored for next season’s new plants or plants to propagate and share with friends.