Artichokes are a great healthy choice vegetable to grow in your garden. While they usually don’t get center stage next to tomatoes and potatoes, they are a great addition to almost any plate… and they are Keto friendly.
The Artichoke is an herbaceous perennial in the family of plants that include thistle, sunflower, and dandelion. In west coast climates, the Artichoke is a perennial that can overwinter without too much trouble. With the right care, you can enjoy 2-3 harvests each year. A well-cared-for plant can produce 40 or more blooms per year. A single plant can grow and produce for 5 years. Artichokes are still very popular in Mediterranean regions, but seldom grown in the U.S. California is the only state with a large commercial Artichoke industry.
The flower (buds) are the part of the plant that is sold in grocery stores. It consists of bracts (firm leaves) with sharp tips tightly folder over the inside flower parts and protecting the heart of the bud- the tastiest part.
Artichokes are delicious and they pack a nutritious punch. One medium-sized globe artichoke contains 14 grams of carbs. 10 of those come from fiber, making it very low in digestible (net) carbs (71).
- Low in fat and calories (47g per 100g)
- One of the best vegetable sources of dietary fiber and antioxidants
- High in vitamin C (20% of RDA)
- Contain compounds that inhibit and reduce cholesterol
- Folic acid (17% RDA)
- One of the good vegetable sources of vitamin K (bone health and preventing neuronal damage to the brain- valuable role in treating patients with Alzheimer’s)
- Rich in B-Complex vitamins (niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin, and pantothenic acid that are essential in metabolic function)
- Great source of many minerals like copper, calcium, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus.
Here are some varieties of artichoke that are available. Depending upon your growing conditions and end-use, you can find a great choice from these options.
- Big Heart – thornless
- Green Globe – (Available at Wilco) most often grown commercially in California. It needs optimal growing conditions.
- Imperial Star – (available at Wilco) widely adaptable and easy to grow from seed. It is designed to be grown as an annual and is good for zones 6 and colder.
- Purple of Romagna – Tender Italian heirloom that chefs love.
- Violetto – Another Italian heirloom that produces dozens of small side shoots.
When to Plant
- March is the best time to plant artichokes. But planting in April and May on the west coast still gives the plant plenty of time to produce blooms.
- Start from starts. This gives you the edge over time because to reach full maturity an artichoke needs 110 days at the very least.
- Get your 1-Gallon Artichoke Starts here! Shop Online >> Drive-Through Store Pickup.
- Most artichokes don’t flower until their second year of growth, so planting from starts that are well on their way to maturity or already mature will guarantee you a harvest in your first planting year.
- The best time to plant artichokes is early spring. They’ll handle cold nights just fine.
- The only thing artichokes don’t like is soggy poor-draining soil. Moving your container or covering the plants over winter can keep their roots from sitting in wet soil for 3 months. They’ll pay you back for this special care with a longer life and more buds!
Soil & Light
Artichokes like light, well-draining, slightly sandy soil and a pH level between 6.5 and 7. They also love full sun and won’t falter if they have exposure morning to night. The flower buds will suffer some if they have too much shade during the growing season. Wilco recommends G&B Harvest Supreme. It has 15% chicken manure to help get starts going fast.
Use a balanced fertilizer every two weeks during the growing season. Wilco recommends G&B 4-6-3 Tomato, Vegetable & Herb organic blended fertilizer. Apply liberally every two months per plant near its base. Slightly scratch the soil surface to imbed the fertilizer a bit and allow normal watering to distribute nutrients throughout the soil.
For great information on using blended organic fertilizers in your garden, watch this YouTube video from our friends at Glenridge Gardens.
Artichokes love to eat up all the nitrogen out of the soil. So if you are planting them with other garden plants, choose plants that won’t compete for nitrogen consumption as much. A few ideas are:
Artichokes can produce buds throughout the year if in ideal conditions (Mediterranean and California). But in general, buds will begin to appear early in the summer with the center stalk producing first. It can be harvested when it reaches about 3” in diameter when the bracts are still tightly folded and the bud is firm. Cut 2 or 3” of the stem as well for easy handling.
Once the center bud is harvested. Smaller side shoots will begin forming. Buds from the side shoots can be harvested when they reach 1 to 2” in diameter. They may be smaller, but they are very tender and flavorful and will require minimal heating-through before eating.
Artichokes are best when cooked lightly and prepared in simple ways. They can be roasted or steamed and then served with a dipping sauce of your choice or melted butter.
There are numerous ways to prepare artichoke and cooking times will vary depending upon the bud size and variety of plant. However one of my favorites is the ‘soak, smoke, then boil’ method. Here are the basics:
- Harvest artichokes and trim thorns (if your variety has thorns)
- Smoke on your grill (I use a Traeger 575 and apple wood pellets) for one hour at 180 degrees.
- Soak in water that includes 1/4 cup of lemon juice (or quarter cut a fresh lemon and squeeze it in the water and drop the lemon parts in the water with the artichokes)
- Boil the artichoke in water with a 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 2 fresh garlic cloves (slightly pressed) for approximately 30 minutes.
- Serve with garlic butter or honey-butter.
Want a quick guide on when to plant other veggies? Visit our Planting Guide here.