Real Men Sow

Globe Artichokes – More Than Just a Veg?

I’m in a quandary about my globe artichoke plants: should they stay, or should they go?

Globe artichokes are supposedly one of Ailsa’s favourite veg, but for whatever reason, we never eat them. They just seem to pass us by. Maybe it is because very few of them grow that big, but then again, not all allotment produce does. You kind of accept that some allotment fruit and veg will be grow smaller than the commercial guys.

As Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said in the very first episode of River Cottage, ‘there is no room for passengers in this garden’. However, there are a few things I need to consider before I hoik them up.

Tool Damage
I did remove two of my five plants a couple of years ago to give to a fellow allotment holder who was just starting up. He wandered over and asked where he could get some artichokes from. I had more than I needed so offered to dig two up and leave them on his plot for his next visit.

That cost me a spade and a fork. What I didn’t realise was that the roots are really big, and firmly establish themselves in the ground. My plants were only two years old, but boy had they taken hold. They snapped the handles on both my tools. You can guess what I got for my birthday.

They’re Survivors
I don’t know about anyone else’s artichoke plants, but every winter mine shrivel up into a soggy, brown mess. I pore over them, pulling the mush around, convinced that they are goners. Then, miraculously around January time, they show signs of life after a dormant winter. Almost in between visits, the plants are alive and kicking again, and by spring they’re several feet high once more.

Attractive
And you know what? I reckon globe artichokes are one of the most attractive plants on an allotment plot. They’re big, cumbersome and shade out veg around them, but the foliage is really verdant and tremendously eye-catching. The artichokes themselves are unusual and provide variety to the plot.

I adore the purple colour of the artichokes once they go to seed too. It’s a beautiful, striking colour, and looks great in a vase.

Bees
The bees love artichokes too. Once the flower comes, the plants are a magnet for bees. There are so many hovering around the artichoke heads that I can hear the buzz from well down the plot, and we all know looking out for the bees is important.

So perhaps, whether I like artichokes or not, and whether I actually get around to eating them, isn’t all that important. Maybe, for once, it’s not all about the eating.

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10 Comments

  1. Alan @ it's not work, it's gardening!March 30, 2012 at 11:28 amReply

    They certainly are beautiful plants with blooms that the bees love, aren’t they? I grow Cardoon (very similar) as an ornamental in my garden, but there’s certainly no space for it in my small veggie beds. This plant can get huge!

  2. Jono

    JonoMarch 30, 2012 at 5:46 pmReplyAuthor

    Hi Alan – shall have to get googling on the Cardoon. Sounds really interesting. You’re right on the size, I had no idea quite how much space they’d take up. The original 5 I put in was certainly overdoing it!

  3. Petra Hoyer MillarMarch 30, 2012 at 8:42 pmReply

    I love artichokes, both on a plate but also as a plant. Such lovely leaves. I have six of them, though 3 look really ropey. As its now almost April and nothing has come up yet, does that mean its bad news????

  4. Jono

    JonoMarch 31, 2012 at 8:17 amReplyAuthor

    Hmmm, maybe. Mine are big and bushy now. How old are they Petra?

  5. Dan Toombs - The Curry GuyMarch 31, 2012 at 3:24 pmReply

    Globe artichokes have to be my favourite vegetable of all time! I’m originally from California where they grow quite large as they do in Italy and France.

    I tried to grow them here in the UK but didn’t have a very good crop. I think I ended up with ten small artichoke but they were really good. Yours look fantastic by the way.

    Your post has inspired my to give it another go.

    Thanks.

  6. Amy BrambleApril 1, 2012 at 7:39 amReply

    Hello again

    They should stay!!

    My logic for this year is to hang on to everything that’ll survive in the event of water shortages. Who knows everything might be fine but if we don’t have much rain, I reckon robust, tough plants like these will have a better chance than a lot of the brassicas and roots.

    (I’m still only a few years in to all of this though so will defer to other’s superior knowledge!)

  7. Jono

    JonoApril 1, 2012 at 8:05 amReplyAuthor

    Thanks for the comments Dan and Amy.

    Amy, that’s a really good point, I didn’t think of that. The artichoke plants are as tough as old boots, I never water them and they don’t complain at al.

  8. AnonymousApril 1, 2012 at 3:54 pmReply

    we’ve got just the one plant on our plot and despite not harvesting them very often it stays,(J likes them I’m not keen). The flowers alone would be worth a little space then again we do make room for quite a few things that bring pollinators on the plot rather than directly provide us with food.

  9. Petra Hoyer MillarApril 2, 2012 at 9:49 amReply

    Hi Jono,

    They’re very young. Went in last year as mere ‘nippers’…. Think I may have to sort out their funeral and look for replacements. Any recommendations for varieties and nurseries?

  10. MariaApril 2, 2012 at 10:29 amReply

    I love the foliage on artichokes – I saw some in a garden yesterday and was musing how they are practically ornamental, even if you don’t like them as edibles!

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope.

However, three years on, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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