Artichokes are in the same family as daisies (asteracea) and other flowers, not suprising when you see their thistle like flower head. They are ideal to grow in our climate and tolerate frosts, like a cold winter and definite seasons, and are another perennial spring vege. The plants need a permanent place in the garden and qiute a bit of room because the plants grow up to 1.5m high and wide, also good sunlight and drainage. Grown from seed (in spring) or the root/tuber cuttings (autumn and winter) and 3 – 4 months later will be ready to harvest from established plants, through to summer.
Autumn – Divide plants and/or plant new tubers. Use healthy suckers about 15-20cm long and carrying at least a couple of shoots and a good root system. Dig and feed the soil well, add lime if soil pH is lower than 6.5 – 7.5. Weed.
Winter – Divide plants and/or plant new tubers. Every 4 -5 years it pays to lift and divide the plants and renew your plot. A feed of compost and potash (wood ash) will help spring production.
Spring – Harvest. Cut the chokes before they flower, but still a firm, heavy bulb, and leaving 10cm or so of stem on, as if you are cutting flowers. In the early years each plant produces 4-6 flower heads but many more in the following years until they start to decline and need dividing. A regular feed of worm juice or equivalent every three weeks or so during peak production will help yields. Weed, water and mulch well.
Summer – At the end of the season the uncut flower heads will die back, you can trim the stalks back to the base of the plant.
Eating – The only vege where you end up with more on your plate after you’ve finished eating than when you started! Eat the stem end of the leaf scales and the fleshy base of the flower. Can be a bit time consuming to prepare and eat, but well worth it. Steamed and eaten with a drizzle of olive oil, cracked pepper, seasalt and chopped boiled egg is one way.