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Plant of the week: Artichokes

Artichokes can grow up to six feet wide.
Artichokes can grow up to six feet wide.
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One vegetable you can plant in early spring and allow to mature throughout the summer is the artichoke. This hearty green is not only great in soups and salads, but it’s delicious when it’s steamed on its own. There are several varieties of artichoke, but the most common is the garden variety.

Artichokes are actually a part of the sunflower family. When we use artichokes for cooking, we typically eat the bud (the artichoke “heart”). If left to grow freely, artichokes can grow up to six feet in diameter. Artichokes are native to the Mediterranean region and have been used in cooking since the 1500s. While they are now loved world wide, they have become a popular staple on the common dinner plate across the United States. Whether you want to try growing a new vegetable or you just want fresher produce than what you find at the market, artichokes are easy to plant.

Artichoke Q&A

1. When can I begin planting artichoke?

Here in New England, you are safe to begin planting after the last threat of frost. Artichokes enjoy the warm weather, however, so planting them once temperatures rise consistently in late April to early May is best.

2. Because artichokes are a big plant, how far apart should I space my seeds?

Plant each seed at least 6” apart. If you are planting them in a garden with rows, make sure the rows have at least 4 feet of space in between them. This will give the artichokes enough room to grow prior to harvest.

3. How long does artichoke take to mature?

For the average garden variety of artichoke, it can take anywhere from 90 to 100 days for the plant to fully develop. For a plentiful harvest by the end of the summer, planting them in early spring is best to give them enough time to grow.

4. Are artichokes prone to any pests or diseases?

Aphids will begin to feed off of your artichokes as their flowers begin to bloom. During an extended period of wet weather, slugs may come out and try munching on your artichokes, too. Both problems can easily be treated with a light insecticide.

5. When is the right time to harvest my artichokes?

Artichokes should be harvested right before they’re about to bloom. If your artichokes have bloomed into lavish, large flowers, you have most likely missed the harvesting period. It’s important to harvest the plants while they’re still buds because those are the artichoke’s “hearts” that they are famous for. Be swift in harvesting and you will be rewarded with artichokes fresher than anything you can find in the grocery store. Enjoy!

For more info:
Check out this site for tips on planting your own artichokes.


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