How to Grow Artichokes

There are two kinds of artichoke, globe and Jerusalem. The globe is a perennial and has a thistle-like head, with scales surrounding a fleshy frond or heart, which is the part with the most flavour. The Jerusalem artichoke is grown for its tubers, which are produced in the soil like potatoes. Although it also is a perennial, the Jerusalem artichoke is more conveniently grown by digging up the tubers each season and replanting the best specimens the following year, as in the case of potatoes.

Globe Artichokes – Cymara scolymus

The Globe Artichoke has spectacular flowers and the foliage is ideal for floral arrangements. It is an evergreen and provides good ground cover.

Of upright habit the plants grow l.20 to l.80 metres high, the well cut leaves, 60 to 90 cm long, being greyish-green covered with white down on the undersides. The purple flowers produced at the end of summer are surrounded by an involucre consisting of fleshy scales which are the edible portion of the plant and which are considered by many to be a great delicacy. The flower heads should be cut with a short stem when young and tender, before the scales  are fully developed, otherwise they become coarse.

Globe artichokes are most suitable for growing in warmer districts where attention can be given to the covering of the crowns during severe weather. Strawy manure, bracken and weathered ashes are all useful for this purpose, although the covering is only necessary when you move the ground deeply during the early winter, working in plenty of manure or good compost. Roots or suckers can be planted throughout the spring. This will give a succession of heads from midsummer to early autumn especially if strong suckers are used.

How to Grow Artichokes Plant the roots firmly 75 cm apart with 1.2m between the rows. It is possible to intercrop with lettuce, carrots or turnips the first season but this should only be done when the land is clean. In good soil, globe artichokes remain productive for five or six years. An annual winter dressing of decayed farmyard manure encourages good quality heads. Top dressings of an organic fertiliser in spring are helpful.

Always gather the heads when ready. If it is not possible to use them immediately, the stems can be placed in water where they will keep fresh for some days. After the largest central King Heads have been cut, side buds will develop.

Varieties include: Green globe and Purple Globe, the former being hardier and having fewer prickles. A particularly good well flavoured French variety, is Gros Vert de Laon. 


Green Globe, the variety usually grown in Britain. May be raised from seed.

Gros Camus de Bretagne, produces large delicious flower heads. Not completely hardy and must, therefore, have protection.

Gros Vert de Laon, a medium-sized variety that does well in the north.

Purple Globe, similar to Green Globe, with purple-tinged heads.

Jerusalem artichoke – Helianthus tuberosus

This is the most popular of artichokes. The word Jerusalem is believed by some to be a corruption of an Italian word, girasole. The name artichoke was given to denote the similarity in the flavour of the tubers to the globe artichoke scales.  Although a hardy perennial plant, it is better to replant each year. Since they grow 2 to 2.25m high, the plants can be used as windbreaks, as a division or screen in the garden, or for protecting tender crops. This crop does best when grown in deeply dug, enriched medium to light soil. Fish manure well worked in is most beneficial. On heavy ground, the tubers are difficult to harvest and slugs may be attracted. Weathered ashes or silver sand used as a surface dressing, keeps pests away.

In drills or furrows about 15 cm deep, place tubers about the size of a pullet’s egg, 25 to 30cm apart. After covering them lightly work in fish manure or other organic fertiliser. A variety known as Fuseau is smoother skinned and therefore easier to peel.


Fuseau, a variety with beautifully smooth tubers, usually smaller than the more knobbly kinds.

New White, a pure white strain of the old, purple-eyed kind.

02. December 2010 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Brassicas, Fruit & Veg, Root Vegetables | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on How to Grow Artichokes


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