The artichoke is a thistle that thrives in Mediterranean climates. The edible portion of the plant consists of the fleshy base or heart, surrounded by small, tightly packed leaves.
Artichoke is a perennial plant that grows to a height of 60-120cm. Each heart can be harvested separately in late summer and the flower buds or ‘chokes’ are considered the most tender part.
Also known as ‘rat’s ear’, this vegetable is actually related to cardoon rather than typical artichokes. The vegetable grows on a perennial plant with thick, arrow-shaped leaves, which can reach up to 2m in length. The Chinese artichoke is believed to be one of the tastiest vegetables in China and can also be found in markets in the USA and Europe.
The edible portions of the Chinese artichoke can be found on its ‘furry’ leaves and should be eaten while still young. The plant takes 3-5 years to mature and is a popular source of food for wild boar, deer and livestock. A similar vegetable, ‘cardoon’, can also be found in Italy.
Chinese artichoke is typically found in Chinese cuisine, but can also be found on menus of French and Italian restaurants. It is a popular ingredient in seafood dishes and soups.
Green Globe Artichoke
Also known as ‘globe artichoke’, this variety produces a spear-shaped edible portion that has to be removed from the choke or ‘heart’ of the artichoke. It can be found in grocery stores and markets in many countries including Italy, France and Australia.
The globe artichoke is a perennial plant that reaches up to 80cm high with long leaves attached to the main stem. The plant forms a flower bud called ‘choke’ when ripe which can be eaten as an edible vegetable. It can be used in both sweet and savory dishes and is popularly used in Mediterranean cuisine.
Globe artichoke is also used as an herbal medicine. It contains a chemical called cynarin, which helps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Because of its high fiber content, it has also been widely recommended for weight loss diets.
The artichoke thistle is a native of the Mediterranean region. It produces thistledown fibres that are utilized by the textile industry. It is also cultivated as a food source and eaten while still young. The artichoke thistle is very similar to the cardoon, but has longer spines on its leaves.
Artichoke thistle has long been used as an herbal medicine in traditional Chinese medicine and Mediterranean folk medicine due to its anti-inflammatory properties. A chemical compound known as cynaropicrin can also be found in the plant, which is believed to help lower blood sugar levels.
It is a tuberous plant in the sunflower family and is closely related to the artichoke. The Jerusalem Artichoke has been confused with the globe artichoke, mainly because of its similar flower buds. It does not have an edible heart but its large roots can be eaten boiled or preserved.
They are commonly served mashed or baked as part of a meal or as an alternative to potatoes. The young shoots of the plant can also be eaten raw in salads and the leaves have been used in herbal teas, breads and even wines. The plant is extremely versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes.
It can be propagated by planting tubers, either fresh or dried, by division and even by seed. It is hardy but it prefers partially shaded areas.
Big Heart Artichoke
The big heart artichoke is the best known kind of artichoke. It has long, pointed leaves and an off white color. It is also the artisanal type because it can be eaten whole. Mostly, people eat the bottom part which is called the “heart” of the artichoke.
The big heart artichoke originated in Italy and Spain but it has spread all over the world. It is also one of the most popular types of artichokes.
The big heart artichoke has a taste between that of a green bean and a cabbage. It is not as bitter as the Jerusalem artichoke, for instance.
The California artichoke has a short stem and medium length, broad leaves with various colors; burgundy or dark green for example. It is one of the best known types of artichokes in Europe.
It has a strong taste that is halfway between an artichoke and a cardoon.
California artichokes are grown mostly in America, Southern France, Northern Italy, and Spain. For California artichokes to be sold they must have at least 11 leaves or 97 cm of petiole.
The elongated artichoke is the most common type of purple artichoke. Also, it is less bitter than the big heart shaped artichoke. Elongated artichokes have a light brown color and long petioles with between 8–12 leaves.
They are grown largely in California; however, they can also be found in Northern Spain. The elongated artichokes are also called the Mediterranean artichoke. The leaves are edible.
The Romanesco artichoke is a less common type of artichoke because it has very short petioles and few to no leaves. Romanesco artichokes are grown in Italy and Spain. They tend to have very small heads which is why some people do not consider them to be true artichokes.
The Romanesco artichoke has less fat than the big heart shaped artichokes but it is still a good source of vitamin C. The big heart shaped artichoke has the most calories with 50 per 100g. The Romanesco type has 36 per 100g and the elongated artichoke has 25 per 100g.
Romanesco artichokes are one of the vegetables that contains the most antioxidants. It also contains a fiber that can be good for cholesterol, constipation, and diabetes.
The Romanesco artichoke is the only type of artichoke with flowers on top.
The castel artichoke is a variety of Romanesco artichoke. The stem and the base are elongated, usually green in color when they are harvested but turn yellow or orange after cooking. They can have petioles that are between 6–8 cm long. There can be as many as 10 leaves on top which are shorter and thinner than the Romanesco artichoke.
Castel artichoke is not as popular but it can be found in Italy and France. The castel artichoke tastes like a combination of cardoons, cauliflower, and broccoli rabe. In Italy they call it “little cardoon”.
Violetta artichokes, which are also known as purple imperials, have pale violet-blue skins and rich green flesh. Their flavor is stronger than that of other artichoke varieties. The plant was developed in the greenhouse at the University of California at Santa Cruz by Dr John Navazio and named for his wife Violet Artichoke, a former art teacher.
Violetta artichokes are smaller than other varieties, with an average weight of 3.5 lb (1.6 kg); the largest reported was 7 lb (3.2 kg). The plants grow between 2 and 3 ft tall, with leaves about 8 to 12 in long and 5 to 8 in wide; they mature about 110 days after transplanting.
The King is a large variety of artichoke, with thick, numerous leaves and large pale-white fleshy bases. It is so named because the head (a bud) has been compared in size and shape to that of the king chess piece; these can reach 2 lb 4 oz (1 kg), making this variety one of the most popular for home growers.
Its flavor is sweet, but rich, with a slightly bitter aftertaste. The first King Artichoke was grown in California by the Ruffner family and named ‘King’. It was developed from a large artichoke variety introduced from Italy.
King artichokes can grow up to 4 ft (120 cm) high, but are often harvested before they reach this height. According to the Guinness Book of World Records a single King Artichoke in North America weighed 3 lb 11 oz (1.7 kg).
Baby Anzio Artichoke
A variety of artichoke developed in Italy. It is a small variety, with light-green flesh and an interesting flavor. Baby Anzio artichokes have a smaller and more compact bud than that of other varieties; leaves are round in shape.
Anzio baby artichokes grow much more rapidly than other types of artichoke, in as little as 60 days. These artichokes are more susceptible to frost than other varieties; they can be grown outside only in warm, sunny locations such as California or Florida.
The Tempo Artichoke is a variety developed by the Ruffner family to produce consistently sized and shaped plants. Tempo artichokes are ready for harvest about 10 days earlier than other artichoke varieties, in as little as 75 days from transplanting. They have a large bud, with large leaves and thick stems; leaves are green with a purple tint. The flavor is sweet, but strong.
The Tempo plant can reach 3 to 4 ft (90–120 cm) in height; it withstands cold temperatures better than other varieties, allowing growers further north to plant earlier—even as early as late September or October.
The Chianti Artichoke was developed by Celestino Vaccaro of the Guelph Agricultural Research Station in Ontario, Canada. It has a large bud, edible stem and thick leaves; it also has a high resistance to cold weather and grows well in adverse climates.
Chianti artichokes are purple except for the very bottom, which is white; they have the same flavor as other artichokes. The plants grow to be about 4 ft (1.2 m) tall.
Chianti artichokes are large and heavy, with an average weight of between 2.9 lb (1.3 kg) to 5 lb (2.3 kg). The largest Chianti artichoke ever grown weighed in at 18.8 lb (8.5 kg).
The Fiesole Artichoke was developed by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nairobi, Kenya. It produces large buds with thick leaves and edible stems. Fiesole artichokes are dark-green both on the top and bottom; they reach a height of about 4 to 5 ft (120–150 cm). The flavor is strong and sweet.
Fiesole artichokes were the first to be bred for earliness, a key feature in areas with long summers yet short autumn seasons; they also produce large bud heads and can still reach maturity as early as 120 days from transplanting. These are new cultivars under development by researchers at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture; they have been found to be more tolerant of colder weather than other varieties.
How should I store my artichokes?
Artichoke hearts are highly perishable. They can be kept in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, immersed in fresh water to prevent them from browning. Before consuming, cut off about 1/2 inch (1 cm) of the stem end; using a spoon, scoop out some of the choke and rub the cut end with lemon juice or dip in a mixture of 1/4 teaspoon salt to 1 gallon (3.78 L) water.
When should I plant artichokes?
You can start planting artichoke seeds outdoors anytime after early spring, at least four weeks before ground freezes in your area, although you will get better-tasting artichokes if you plant them later in the season.
Grown In Containers?
Of course! Artichoke plants can easily grow up to 18 inches (46 cm) tall, so using a large pot is ideal. Depending on your space, consider planting dwarf varieties like ‘Imperial Star’ or ‘Violetto’ in a large decorative pot on your patio or deck.
Artichoke plants are heavy feeders, so use a good liquid organic fertilizer once a week after transplanting.
If you have large containers or plan to grow artichokes indoors throughout the season, fertilize every two weeks with an organic fertilizer such as a fish emulsion.
How do I know when to harvest my artichokes?
Harvesting your artichoke is similar to harvesting peas. The best time to harvest them is after a rainfall, when their leaves become slightly droopy and they smell sweet.
Artichokes have small thorns on the bottom which should be pulled away before eating. You can use a knife to trim off the lower white stem area (about 1/2 inch or 1 cm) and rub the cut end with lemon juice or dip in a mixture of 1/4 teaspoon salt to 1 gallon (3.78 L) water.
How do I eat an artichoke?
You can enjoy this versatile vegetable fresh, steamed, boiled, grilled, baked or cooked into soup.
For a healthier alternative to fried or breaded artichoke hearts, bake the artichokes whole with olive oil and season with salt until tender. The leaves will become soft and you can enjoy them like chips along with dip!
How many calories are in an artichoke?
One medium-sized artichoke contains 100 calories.
What are the health benefits of artichokes?
Besides being a tasty treat, artichokes may actually help you stay healthy. They provide more calcium than milk, and contain vitamin C and potassium. The antioxidants in artichoke plants have been linked to anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce the symptoms associated with allergies like asthma and hay fever.
What are aphids and how do I get rid of them?
Aphids are very small insects that suck the juices out of plants. They can be found on artichoke leaves, buds, stems or chokes. It is best to treat aphids early by rinsing with water or using an insecticidal soap. Use a higher concentration of soap if the infestation is severe.
Artichokes are a delicious vegetable that is packed with nutrients. Try some of the different kinds this season and enjoy! Now you know about types of artichokes. Keep learning!