How to Grow Artichokes

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December 22, 2017 | 127,541 views

Story at-a-glance

  • Though they originated in the Mediterranean region as perennials, you can grow artichokes as annuals in cooler temperatures, where they will produce firm, round edible buds in about 180 days
  • Artichokes are heavy feeders that require full sun and special soil considerations to thrive; you can grow them in your garden as edible plants or ornamental flowers
  • Artichokes contain high amounts of fiber, as well as beneficial nutrients such as vitamins C, K and B9 (folate), magnesium and potassium
  • Among their many health benefits, artichokes have been shown to prevent cancer, regulate your blood pressure, promote healthy bowel movements and support your heart, gallbladder and liver

By Dr. Mercola

While the thought of growing artichokes might be intimidating, I assure you that bringing a taste of the Mediterranean to your garden may be easier than you may have imagined. Artichokes are tasty when served fresh from the garden, and they can be successfully grown even in cooler climates.

If you've never had the pleasure of dipping steamed artichoke leaves in melted raw, organic grass fed butter, and using your teeth to draw out the tender meat, you don't know what you're missing! When all of the leaves have been savored, a further treasure awaits — the rich, earthy taste of the artichoke heart.

Artichokes not only have a taste and texture that is wonderfully unique, but they also contain high amounts of fiber and a myriad of beneficial nutrients, including vitamins C, K and B9 (folate), magnesium and potassium. Artichokes have been shown to help prevent cancer, regulate your blood pressure, promote healthy bowel movements and support your gallbladder, heart and liver. Given their many healthy properties, I encourage you to consider growing artichokes.

Interesting Facts About Artichokes

Native to the Mediterranean region, artichokes (Cynara scolymus) became scarce with the fall of the Roman Empire. After making a comeback in Italy in the 1500s, artichokes were introduced to the Americas by French and Spanish gardeners. California is the biggest producer of artichokes in the U.S. Other interesting facts about artichokes are:1

Types of Artichokes

Artichokes come in several varieties, including:2,3

Three Artichoke Starting Options

Because artichokes take about six months to mature, you need to get a head start when planning to add artichokes to your vegetable garden. Below are three options to consider:5

Artichoke Planting Tips

Artichokes thrive in full sun to partial shade. The soil should be moist and well-drained. Six to eight hours of sun a day is ideal. Because they grow new shoots every year, to encourage large, flavorful buds.

You should remove all but one or two of the strongest shoots. It will take at least two growing seasons before you can expect to see healthy, tasty artichokes, but it will be well worth the wait. Before you can even begin to think about planting artichokes, you must consider the condition of your soil.6,7, 8 Because artichokes thrive in moist, slightly acidic conditions, you'll want to:

Artichokes: Annual or Perennial?

In warmer climates, artichokes are traditionally grown as perennials, producing buds during the second growing season based on a period of overwintering. They take about 180 days to mature. If you live in a cooler climate but want to get artichoke buds the first year, you must direct seed and grow artichokes as annuals.

Rodale's Organic Life shares tips on how to perform vernalization, a method of tricking your artichoke plants into behaving as if they have already made it through their first winter so they will flower earlier. To do so, you must:9

How to Harvest Artichokes

As mentioned in the video above, most plants will produce up to eight or nine artichokes. With so many buds drawing nutrients, only one or two of the artichokes will be large, and the rest will be small. If you want larger artichokes, you will need to cut off most of the buds as soon as they appear, retaining, at most, three to four of them.

Artichokes are ready to be harvested10 in mid- to late-summer after the stems have flowered and the artichoke buds are tight, firm and about 3 inches in diameter. To harvest, cut the artichoke stems at an angle about 2 inches below the head. Refrigerate unwashed artichokes in plastic bags, where they will keep for up to two weeks.

Wash them prior to cooking. Because aphids (and sometimes ants) can burrow into artichokes, if you notice these pests during harvesting, you will want to soak cut artichokes in a bowl of salted water to draw the pests out.

In most cases, after the first cutting, your plants will produce a second crop of smaller artichoke buds. If you allow the buds to open fully, the artichokes will no longer be edible but you will enjoy beautiful, ornamental flowers. After you have harvested all the buds on a stem, cut the stem down to or near ground level. After harvest, you have two options for keeping your artichokes going from one season to the next:11

Saving Artichoke Seeds

In climates where summers are long enough for seeds to ripen, you can save artichoke seeds for future plantings. Harvested seeds will typically remain viable for about six years. The video above shows you how to collect seeds. The steps involved in collecting artichoke seeds are:12

Health Benefits of Artichokes

A 3.5-ounce serving of artichokes contains 47 calories and 5 grams (g) of fiber, 3 g of protein and 1 g of sugar. Among their many beneficial nutrients, artichokes contain high amounts of vitamins C, K and B9 (folate), as well as beneficial amounts of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and potassium. Artichokes are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Some of the health benefits of artichokes are as follows:13,14

Boost heart health: Artichoke leaves contain ingredients shown to optimize your low- to high-density lipoprotein cholesterol ratios

Ensure healthy elimination: Due to high amounts of dietary fiber, artichokes add bulk to your stool that will decrease your susceptibility to diarrhea and constipation, while ensuring healthy, regular bowel movements

Prevent cancer: Artichokes are extremely high in antioxidants, including vitamin C, quercetin and rutin. Artichokes also contain high levels of polyphenols, which have chemoprotective qualities designed to slow down and stop, or even reverse, the effects of cancer in your body

Promote liver health: Artichokes have long been used as a liver tonic based on the presence of cynarin and silymarin, antioxidants that reduce and eliminate liver toxins, and possibly contribute to the regrowth and repair of damaged liver cells

Regulate blood pressure: Because they are a rich source of potassium, artichokes help regulate the effects of sodium on your body, which positively impacts your blood pressure

Support gallbladder function: Artichokes can soothe an inflamed gallbladder and promote healthy gallbladder function by stimulating the production and secretion of gastric juices, as well as bile

Three Cautions About Artichokes

While artichokes are an excellent source of nutrition to most people, they are not beneficial to everyone. You should pass on artichokes if any of the following situations apply to you:15

How to Choose an Artichoke

When selecting globe artichokes from the market, choose them for their dark green color, compact leaves, heaviness and round shape. Loose leaves indicate the artichoke is past its prime, unless you plan to puree it for soup. Avoid artichokes that look dry or brown. A slight discoloration of the leaves may be a sign of frost damage, which some suggest gives artichokes a sweeter taste.

Because conventional artichokes are heavily sprayed with pesticides, buy organic as often as you can. Better yet, grow your own. Before refrigerating your artichokes, carve a thin slice off the stem, sprinkle the leaves with water and store in an airtight plastic bag. Use them within a week. I do not recommend canned artichokes.

Artichokes lose most of their nutrients when canned, and a somewhat lesser amount when frozen. When comparing fresh artichokes to processed ones, the loss of flavorful taste is the most outwardly noticeable difference.

The Best Part: Eating Artichokes

Because artichoke hearts are buttery with a somewhat nutty flavor, they make a wonderful accompaniment to grilled or sautéed fish, such as wild Alaskan salmon. Most often, artichokes are served as an appetizer (think spinach-artichoke dip), added to salads or dressed with olive oil, vinegar and herbs.

Whole artichoke buds are best roasted or steamed and served with a dipping sauce, such as melted raw, organic grass fed butter. You can always add garlic, lemon or mustard to your butter, if desired. To make roasted artichokes, follow these easy steps:

When cool enough to handle, the leaves can be enjoyed when peeled one by one and raked through your teeth to extract the meat. Eating a whole artichoke is an act of patience and a joyful, communal art when undertaken during a family gathering or dinner party. For another variation, be sure to try my Fennel-Dill Artichoke recipe. I combined the flavorful goodness of artichokes with equally nutritious ingredients like fennel, dill, carrots and coconut oil.

The result: a scrumptious baked artichoke recipe you and your family will surely love. In whatever way you choose to enjoy them, I think you will find artichokes to be so tasty and healthy that you will be motivated to keep the plants coming back in your garden year after year.

[+]Sources and References [-]Sources and References

  • 1, 2, 10, 12 Mother Earth News December 16, 2013
  • 3, 8 The Spruce March 27, 2017
  • 4 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Plant Hardiness Zone Map
  • 5, 6 Vegetable Gardener April 25, 2009
  • 7, 9, 11 Rodale’s Organic Life July 8, 2015
  • 13 Plant Foods for Human Nutrition December 2015; 70(4): 441-453
  • 14, 15 Organic Facts August 22, 2017