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The Seed Program
Growing Hints

This is one of the many growing hints that are available as a bonus with a registered copy of The Seed Program.

Artichoke

This relative of the thistle is a large perennial plant that requires a long growing season. It is best to start seeds indoors in late winter, and transplant after danger of frost has passed. Artichokes perform best when grown in rich soil and given plenty of room.

The large flower buds are harvested just before they begin to open. These heads usually start to develop a reddish color when they are ready to be cut. Artichokes can be eaten raw, but are usually steamed for a half hour to 45 minutes, depending on size. The petals or "scales" will pull off easily when they have cooked enough. In addition to the artichoke heart (the base of the flower) the thickened flesh at the base of the larger scales may be scraped off and eaten. The scales get smaller and smaller the deeper you get into the center of the head. The small undeveloped petals are scraped off, leaving the heart.

Most varieties, such as Green Globe Improved, will not produce a crop the first season, and so must be wintered over. The plants will tolerate frozen soil if covered by a thick layer of mulch. Mice may be a problem, tunneling through the mulch to consume the plants during the winter. Overwintering this tender perennial is easier in areas with a mild winter. The flower buds are usually produced in late spring or early summer the second year.

It may be possible to convince the plant to produce a crop first year, by exposing the young plant to a period of cold weather. This can be accomplished by putting the plant out in a cold frame in early spring. This may fool the plant into thinking that it has survived a winter and that it is time to reproduce by producing flowers. This is a challenge to actually pull off.

A new variety called Imperial Star has been introduced recently which has been bred to produce a crop the first year. Imperial Star can be grown as an annual, and this makes the artichoke a much more practical crop in areas with a cold winter.

If you happen to miss harvesting a blossom or two you will be rewarded with an enormous and beautiful flower, but you will probably want to pick all you can find of this delicious crop.

For more crops, more complete gardening information, a garden journal and a planting schedule you can customize for your region, purchase The Seed Program!

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