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Artichoke

The globe artichoke scientific name is Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus. In the U. S, it is also known as green artichoke and French artichoke. Artichoke has many varieties, and it is grown as food. Artichoke flower buds are edible, but the bloomed flower is not. On an edible base, the budding flower-head of artichoke consist of clusters of many small budding flowers, with numerous bracts. After the blooming of buds, it is not edible because of its whole structure change. The sister species of artichoke, cardoon, is cultivated perennial in the Mediterranean region. Both forms are wild and cultivated varieties.

Description of Artichoke

Artichoke is a vegetable, and the average height of the plant is 1.4–2 m. Its leaves are arched, glaucous-green, silvery, and deeply lobed leaves, which are 50–83 cm long. The flowers of artichoke develop in a big head from an edible scaled bud. The height is 8–15 cm in diameter with many triangular scales. The color of each floret is purple.

Artichoke is cooked by boiling or steaming. An unseasoned, well-cooked artichoke has a delicious flavor. The lower white fleshy part of the buds' involucral bracts is edible, known as "heart." The florets in the center are immature and known as "choke," and it can be eaten in large and older flowers. The bioactive agents in artichoke bud are luteolin and apigenin. The highest antioxidant capacity is found in artichoke in all vegetables.

Artichoke is mostly cultivated in areas around the Mediterranean basin. France, Spain, Peru, Italy, Argentina, the United States, and Central America are the primary producers. It is cultivated as food, but it is also grown in herbaceous borders because of its large, bold foliage, purple and shiny attractive flower head.

Growing Artichokes

The cultivation of artichokes can be done from seeds or vegetative means like micropropagation, division, and root cuttings. While most artichoke varieties are perennials that generally grow to edible flower in the second and subsequent year. But some types of artichokes are grown annually from seed, which produces a little harvest with the end of the first growing season.

The commercial culture of the artichoke is limited to only warm areas. For best growth of artichoke in winter requires regular frost protection, watering, feeding, and good soil. Each year, rooted suckers are planted, and mature plants are disposed of after some year because each plant's life is a few years.

Spring is the peak season of artichoke harvesting. Still, it continues throughout the summer and another peak season of harvesting is mid-autumn. Artichokes are harvested when bud reaches the size of an apple. The artichoke bud is cut with a sharp blade with 2-3 inches of stem from the plant.  Artichokes buds can be stored for 2 weeks or more, it remains fresh and of good quality for an extended period. Artichoke is a large plant; its seeds are cultivated 4-6 feet apart in a row and sow 0.5-inch-deep in soil. Companion vegetable asparagus can be grown with it. They grow best on sunny days and small buts wilt in shades, so proper sun exposer is required for its healthy growth. It is cultivated on fertile, sandy, and well-drained soil with pH neutral or slightly alkaline. To keep flower buds tender and fleshy, water the plant thrice a week. It grows in a warm climate like California and the Mediterranean. Still, immature bloom can happen due to extra warm weather. The perennial cultivation of artichoke is best in mild winter with 50-60 ℉ and in moist, cool summers when the temperature is 70-81 ℉.

A balanced fertilizer for the vegetable plant is applied every second week during the whole growing season. During frosty winter, cut the plant to the height of 10 inches and cover it with a box, mulch, or basket. Artichokes can be grown in large 30-40 inches wide containers.

Pest and diseases affecting Artichokes

Pests that affect artichoke are slugs, plume moth, and aphids. Aphids attack in damp weather on younger buds and leaves. Gray mold affects flower bracts and leaves. The leaves turn from brown to greyish. Keep examining the plant and remove the affected plants immediately.

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