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Jan 28, 2011 03:17 PM

'Globe' Artichoke Varieties?

Anyone out there grow up on an artichoke farm? anyone grow artichokes?

I'm curious>> I grew up in a post war family where my VA and LA raised parents (born in the 1920's) had both never had artichokes til they met in CA after the war. They tasted them and became fans, so we always had them around when i was growing up in VA./ D.C. area. I only remember having the variety that is rather conical shaped, not rounded.

As an adult, just a few times in recent years,I have bought (when there was no choice) and cooked the more round chokes, with leaves that do not come straight down on the sides, but rather are indented at the bottom, offering less of the delicious flesh. These chokes seem inferior for this lack of flesh, and, in their more ' fibrous/papery' interiors . Can anyone educate me about these differences in varieties? Do the globular ones have some economic or eating benefits I don't know about? Are they a winter crop or more frost tolerant as opposed to the conical chokes?

Thanks much for your help.

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  1. I'm a California native who grew up eating artichokes. Lived in the Monterey Bay area for some years and I've never lost my taste for these delicious thistle relatives. I noticed the notched tops in the past couple of years and agree that the flesh is inferior to those thorny varieties. The only people I have found who like these are the grocery store checkout clerks who are not having thorns in their fingers as they ring up our orders! When I asked a produce manager, he replied that his customers also like the thornless varieties for the same reason.

    1. I live in California and grow artichokes in my yard. I planted one plant about 15 years ago and have enjoyed many artichokes off it since then.

      I think that it is the type you are describing although they don't seem particularly "indented" at the bottom. What is different is that they are truly globe-like - very spherical rather than pointed at the top. That is because the top leaves bend inward. They seem to grow on the same schedule as I see the first commercial crops arriving in grocery stores.

      They have no less flesh than the pointy chokes and they are very tasty. Don't ask me, ask my neighbors.

      Commercial growers harvest a crop, pull up the plants, replant, and get a second and third crop in a single year. I planted once, harvest in spring-summer, stop watering, cut the plant down the ground when it dies off, and wait until it sprouts again in the spring.

      5 Replies
      1. re: 512window

        thank you both for that info, very helpful. 512, what is your harvest season typically and how many do you usually harvest from your single 15 yr old plant in your single season? Have you tasted the conical ones? Maybe the less satisfactory ones i have experienced here in the boston area markets- are yet another variety from the one you grow.I usally find out that, within certain vegetable types, there are tons of varieties of which i am unaware.

        and sherri, of the conical ones i prefer, i have sometimes experienced them with wicked thorns but, often as not, no thorns!

        i wonder what that " pull up, plant anew, for 3 crops per year"- does to the soil vs. a non-throw away system (which i guess would require 3x more property to be equivalent in yield?) I would guess the throw away system would require a ton more of fertilizer?...............

        thanks you two; yet another reason you are wicked happy to have lived/ be living in CA, eh?!

        1. re: opinionatedchef

          I usually start harvesting in April and it keeps up for a month or two. Usually I get tired of them and let them go to flower.

          The reason I get tired of them is that they are difficult to clean. They get ants, earwigs, and snails/slugs inside the chokes. You have to clean them by soaking the chokes in salty water for at least 15 minutes. Even so, you occasionally end up with a well cooked surprise.

          So, in addition to all the fertilizer that the commercial growers use, they must be using tons of pesticide because you *never* see bugs in commercially grown artichokes.

          You get a big central stem that always has the biggest choke. In good years, mine is the size of a dinner plate. I ate at least 16 artichokes from my plants last year.

          1. re: 512window

            ".....because you *never* see bugs in commercially grown artichokes."

            You never see bugs in the commercially grown artichokes that make it to the supermarkets, but ......... when I lived in Monterey CA we used to buy brown paper grocery bags of culls at the fields for $1. They all had *additional protein* as part of thepackage. Often there were worm tunnels throughout the artichokes but they were such a sterling bargain that I didn't mind the extra cleaning work. We ate artichokes, in season, until I thought we'd turn green, leafy and thorny.

            1. re: 512window

              512, sooo interesting! sherri, you are funny!
              so, for all you lucky CA. folks 'cursed' w/ being able to eat your own chokes, i will remind you that the Pilgrims (as in Plymouth, in my state of MA.) grew so tired of eating lobster that they used to throw them in piles on the beach- to rot. like paul simon says "one man's ceiling is another man's floor." ) I am surprised you wouldn't freeze the hearts for later off-season use.....But then again, maybe it takes you a year til you want to eat them again!

              p.s. do you think yours (they look conical in the photo and you say they have thorns) taste different from the globular kind(s?)

              1. re: 512window

                Dear 512 window et al, I too am growing these big ol' artichokes that are thornless, earwig filled sort of woody giant balls, and I'd like to know what variety they are. They have a notch on the top of the leaf where one would usually find a pointy thorn. My plants are huge, so much so that one toppled over today, and so are the artichokes they grow, but despite feeding and watering them, they're not a big hit on the eating end. The choke part is ok, but the leaves-not so much. Does anybody out there know what they are?? cheers, Laura

          2. Here's an interesting video highlighting the artichoke harvest. The way the artichokes are sorted is by circumference, and surprisingly the smaller ones grow at the *bottom* of the plant. Have a look at this -->

            2 Replies
            1. re: Cheese Boy

              cheeseboy, you are one HOT TICKET!!!!! i think you have just taught me a very very valuable lesson- that youtube needs to be added to my inventory of research sites; that it's useful for far more than just music and interviews. THANK YOU!

              btw, youall, the artichokes in the youtube- are the ones i prefer to the globular ones i've occasionally bought here in the boston area.

              1. re: opinionatedchef

                Opinionatedchef, youtube is a good resource ... it's especially good if
                you want to escape from all the rhetoric for a while. I try to use it whenever I can. : )