I’m Charlie Nardozzi and this is the Vermont Garden Journal. When my daughter Elena was young we used to visit California, and sometimes for a treat, head up Route 1 to Castorville, and the Giant Artichoke restaurant. Castorville is the artichoke capital of the world and the restaurant features artichoke soups, omelets, burgers, cupcakes, and, our favorite, fries. But you don’t have to go to California to enjoy fresh artichokes. You can grow them in Vermont, too! Here’s how.
Globe artichokes are a perennial in warmer climates like California, Spain, and Italy and produce flower buds or "artichokes" starting the second year after planting. This thistle family plant can produce dozens of artichokes in the right climate. In Vermont if you get 10 to 12 good ones per plant you’re doing well.
Purchase plants from a local garden center. The best varieties for our climate are ‘Imperial Star’ and ‘Tempo’. These newer varieties produce the flower buds in the first season provided you trick them. Expose artichokes to a few weeks of outdoor temperatures between freezing and 50F to fool them into thinking they’ve gone through a winter. They will send up flower buds by mid-summer.
Artichoke plants can grow 4 to 6 feet tall and wide so give them some space. Plant in full sun, on well drained, very fertile soil. Water regularly and feed them monthly with an organic fertilizer. Set plants out soon, but protect them from a late frost. Harvest the chokes in mid-summer before the buds open and while they’re still firm. Be careful, the plants may have thorns. Saute, steam or fry them experimenting with a variety of dishes. Even consider leaving a few buds on the plant to open into an attractive purple thistle flower.
Now for this week’s tip, spread bark mulch around trees and shrubs now, being careful to remove old mulch so you never have more than a 2 to 3 inch thick layer. Also, keep the mulch away from tree trunks.
Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I’ll be talking about geraniums. For now, I’ll be seeing you in the garden!