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'Grow Your Own' Week: Growing globe artichokes


by Lila Das Gupta

Artichokes do take up a lot of space - about a metre per plant. But if you love their taste, growing your own is the only thing to do...


Close-up of somebody harvesting a globe artichokeWhy are shop-bought globe artichokes always so disappointing? It's always the same: you go on holiday to Italy, France or Spain, buy lovely artichokes in the markets, then resolve to keep the spirit alive by eating more of them back home. But the reality is that so many artichokes sold in this country are old and tough.

Artichokes do take up a lot of space - about a metre per plant. But if you love their taste, growing your own is the only thing to do.  If you don't have a vegetable patch, they are such handsome plants that they definitely earn their keep as a striking accent in the border.    

One of the most commonly available varieties is 'Green Globe', which has manageable spines and a good flavour. 'Imperial Star' is a newer, better variety, developed from 'Green Globe'.

The best cultivar I have ever grown was 'Gros Vert De Laon', which I bought from a market in Normandy. Sadly, I left the plants on my last allotment, because it was too much effort to take everything with me. It was only afterwards that I realised not all artichokes are created equal: these were large with an excellent, rich flavour.

While it's perfectly possible to grow artichokes from seed, they don’t all come true, so in any one packet you will have quite a variation. If you have an allotment or know anyone who grows good quality artichokes, the best things to do is to ask them for an offset, which is the only way of ensuring an exact same copy.

Dividing artichoke plants is easy - just take a sharp spade and splice down one of the offsets so that you have a few leaves and a bit of root at the bottom. You can either pot this on till you are ready to plant out, or, put it where it will live permanently.  At this stage plants can be a bit vulnerable, so they need watering well and protecting from strong sun and wind. (Keep late-summer cuttings in a cold frame, to plant out the following spring).

Italian artichokes are another 'grow-your-own' plant that looks superb in a mixed border. 'Violetto' has a gorgeous purplish tint, which complements any other red-leaved plant around it. The heads are smaller than green varieties, but they are delicious eaten whole.

Artichokes have often been said to contain aphrodisiac qualities, but I think it's got more to do with the fact that you can’t wolf them down unthinkingly.  Artichokes are to be savoured layer by layer.

Paolo Arrigo, promoter of all things Italian in the UK, told me of a simple way to cook artichokes as they do in Rome:

1)   Run eight artichokes under water to clean, then cut the stalks off to about 5cm.

2)   Put them in water that's had lemon juice added (this stops them going black).

3)   Chop one tablespoon of mint, three tablespoons of parsley, two cloves of garlic then add to the juice of one lemon and 100ml of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

4)   Take the artichokes out of the water then fill the leaves with this mixture, then place them upside down in a pan so that the stalks are sticking out.

5)   Add the rest of the mix and top up with water so that it just covers the round globe and simmer for around 30 minutes till cooked.

Enjoy!



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Gardeners' World Web User 03/04/2010 at 12:50

where can I get micro rise fungi

Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:40

I have been trying to grow artichokes for a few years now, both from seed (green globe) and from young plants. I have never managed to get one to put out a flower spike - what am I doing wrong?