Beautiful enough for the flower border and utterly delicious when cooked, you can’t help but love the globe artichoke.
It’s one of those plants that effortlessly bridges the gap between the kitchen and ornamental gardens, equally at home in either.
Cynara scolymus is a member of the thistle family and it’s the distinctive flower heads that are so good to eat. They are at their best between June and November and, while they are a little fiddly to prepare, it’s well worth the effort.
You can raise these perennial plants from seed, which should be sown from March to April, either in a seed bed or in small pots. However, results can be patchy and it’s easier to either buy pot-grown plants or take a rooted sucker from an established plant.
Choose a spot to plant them out carefully – they make sizeable plants that can be 1.5m tall. They like a sunny position in soil that retains moisture but does not become water-logged.
Keep them weed-free, mulch well with organic matter in spring and feed to increase the number of artichokes produced. Water them well in dry weather.
Globe artichokes, which are no relation to Jerusalem artichokes, will need some protection from cold winter weather. Cut off the foliage and then cover the crown with straw or well-rotted manure.
They are generally trouble-free to grow, although slugs and snails eating the new foliage and attacks from aphids can happen.
Plants will need to be replaced every two to three years. Taking rooted suckers is the best method.
The unopened flower heads should be picked when they are golf ball-sized. You can eat the base of the bud and the tender leaf ends but not the central choke or the outside leaves.
Here’s a simple way to enjoy this taste of summer.
Artichokes with Parmesan butter sauce
Recipe by Barney Desmazery, taken from BBC Good Food.
4 globe artichokes
200g cold butter
100ml dry white wine
Halve a lemon and put into a large pan of salted water. Bring it to the boil. Cut the stalk off the artichokes and drop them into the boiling water. Boil for 40-45 minutes.
Dice the butter. Pour the wine into a pan, reduce by half, reduce the heat and whisk in the butter, one small piece at a time. Whisk in the Parmesan and the juice of the other lemon.
To eat, pull off the leaves, dip the broken end into the sauce, eat this and discard the rest. When you reach the middle, lift out the central leaves, scrape away the hairy choke and eat the artichoke heart.