The large flower buds are harvested just before they begin to open. These heads usually start to develop a reddish color when they are ready to be cut. Artichokes can be eaten raw, but are usually steamed for a half hour to 45 minutes, depending on size. The petals or "scales" will pull off easily when they have cooked enough. In addition to the artichoke heart (the base of the flower) the thickened flesh at the base of the larger scales may be scraped off and eaten. The scales get smaller and smaller the deeper you get into the center of the head. The small undeveloped petals are scraped off, leaving the heart.
Most varieties, such as Green Globe Improved, will not produce a crop the first season, and so must be wintered over. The plants will tolerate frozen soil if covered by a thick layer of mulch. Mice may be a problem, tunneling through the mulch to consume the plants during the winter. Overwintering this tender perennial is easier in areas with a mild winter. The flower buds are usually produced in late spring or early summer the second year.
Note: Germination instructions are not on seed packets, follow the instructions below for starting seed.
Planting Artichoke Seed:
Suitable for growth in a wide range of conditions but do best in frost free areas and winter temperatures should not drop below 25F.
Start seeds in 4 inch pots in late January or early February. Transplant out 8 weeks later when the soil has warmed. Due to genetic make-up, about 20% of artichoke plants from seed will be useless, so cull (pick out) smaller and albino plants at the time of transplanting.
Direct sow in early spring when soil temperatures reach 55°F. Direct sown plants may not mature the first year in zones 6 and below. Fertilization Tips-Apply 1 cup of a blended organic fertilizer or a shovel full of chicken manure around each transplant to provide the nutrition necessary for optimum production.
Harvesting Tips-Cut individual flowers before they start to open.
Seed Specs-Approximately 15-20 seeds per gram. Minimum germination standard: 70%. Usual seed life: 1 year. Seed Saving Tip-Artichokes do not usually come true from seed and plants are typically propagated by division after flowering.