When we decided to plant a fruit and vegetable garden in the front yard, it was really important to me that the project look intentional and pretty - not like we were trying to farm the front lawn.
Artichokes seemed like a good pick for us. Their big, silvery leaves and architectural profile - they look a little prehistoric, to be honest - would add beauty and interest to our garden.
We also hoped they would produce artichokes.
So it was disappointing, that first season, when they didn't. I think I know what went wrong:
Artichokes like cool, foggy summers and frost-free winters - that's why you see so many growing in the Central Coast. In favorable conditions, each stalk will produce one big bud (the part you harvest) and a couple of smaller ones. But when conditions are too hot and dry, the plant won't produce.
Ours needed more water.
We did better this year, growing about 10-12 artichokes between our two plants. We ate them simply - steamed and, once, with honey-mustard sauce.
I'd call it a success.
Here are a few more things to know if you want to try growing artichokes too:
- Artichoke plants are big - about 3 to 4 feet high and 6 feet in diameter. Give them lots of space.
- It's a perennial; plants will produce edible buds for about five years.
- In warm climates like ours, plant in partial shade and water once a week - or even more frequently - during the growing season.
- Cut artichokes from the stem, an inch or so below the bulb.
- Harvest when the buds are about 3 inches in diameter, but still closed tight.
Even if you wait too long, an artichoke flower is lovely consolation.
Fun fact: The entire edible portion of an artichoke bulb is about 50 calories. Ha. After all the work it takes to prepare and eat one, you'd think they'd be more substantial.
We replaced part of our front lawn with an edible garden. To read more about it, go here.