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Dublin: 8 °C Tuesday 26 March, 2019
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Globe artichokes - embrace this weird but delicious vegetable

Don’t worry, you don’t have to prepare yourself for a windy day after eating this vegetable.

Michael Kelly Grower

GLOBE ARTICHOKES ARE no relation to Jerusalem artichoke, which means we don’t have to have any flatulence jokes this week (thank God for that).

Whereas Jerusalem artichokes produce enormous yields of underground knobbly tubers (gotta love a knobbly tuber), globe artichokes are grown for the dense and delicious ‘hearts’ that are inside flowerheads which grow on top of a massive thistle-like plant.

They are, quite frankly, incredibly low yielding for such a big plant (you get about a dozen artichoke hearts in a season on each plant), and they are damn fiddly to cook with – but on the flipside they are quite the delicacy, the plants are beautiful in their own right and are perennial so with a bit of luck it will go on producing for about five years.

Globe artichokes are incredibly and surprisingly strong nutrition-wise – they’ve a higher antioxidant hit than cranberries or blueberries, and more dietary fibre than beans and oats.

They have also been proven to lower cholesterol, and have positive impact on the liver and brain. In fact globe artichokes came out as the fourth most nutritious veg in a US Department of Agriculture study. Besides, there’s something somewhat loveable about a food where you really need a tutorial to figure out how to prep and cook the damn thing.

Sowing

Growing from seed is possible, but many GIYers use more reliable “offsets” which are the side shoots from an established plant which you will get in a good garden centre. They will need a very fertile soil in a sunny, sheltered position.

To grow from seed, sow seeds in module trays indoors in March – plant them on into larger 10cm pots and plant out in June after hardening off. Space them at least one meter apart. Cover the plants with fleece if there is a risk of frost. Offsets are planted about 5cm deep. Trim the leaves to 13cm after planting.

Growing

Keep plants weed free and water well. In the first year remove the flowerhead as soon as it appears – this will give you a better crop the next year (sounds great in theory, but not so hot if you are an instant gratification kind of person).

At this time of the year you can start to think about preparing the plants for the winter, removing any dead stems and dying foliage.

Fork over the soil around the plants and then put a thick layer of well rotted manure or compost around them. Give them a high potash liquid feed in the spring.

Harvesting

Yeah, so this is where things get interesting. Harvest the largest, top globe first when it turns fat and soft and just before the scales start to open out. Cut a short length of stalk with it. Then harvest the other heads as they mature.

You will get approx a dozen of them between June and August. Globe Artichokes will produce globes every year for three – four years and then they start to produce progressively less. At this stage, it’s worth propagating new plants by cutting offsets from old ones.

To prep an artichoke globe, slice off the top quarter with a knife and then use a scissors to snip off the ends of the remaining petals as they are a little sharp. Once prepped like this they can be then either grilled, baked, boiled or steamed.

Once cooked, there’s ‘flesh’ on the back of each little petal which you can eat (dipped in your favourite sauce – alioli, mayo or melted butter). Once you’ve removed all the petals you get to a fuzzy ‘choke’ which you remove with the stem – you’re finally at the good stuff – the heart.

Recommended varieties

Violetto di Chioggia, Green Globe.

Problems

I’ve found globe artichokes to be relatively problem free apart from the usual suspects – snails, slugs, aphids etc.

GIY Tips

1. Make sure you water the plants well in the summer – if they don’t have enough H2O you will end up with disappointingly small globes.
2. Just-cut globe artichokes can be cooked much quicker than shop-bought ones – cooking time is reduced to about 7-10 minutes.

Recipe of the Week – Baby Artichoke Bruschetta

This recipe for artichoke bruschetta from Jamie’s Italian is amazing. He bills this as “super easy” on his website which I’d take a little issue with.

If you’re just starting out with artichokes you’re likely to spend a lot of time scratching your head, but persevere – it’s delicious. Serves four.

Read the full recipe here.

Michael Kelly is a freelance journalist, author and founder of GIY. The home of the GIY movement and our brand new national food education centre, Grow HQ, is finally open in Waterford city.

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About the author:

Michael Kelly  / Grower

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