Overview #

Cynara Scolymus, L. Compositæ.

French, Artichaut. German, Artischoke. Flemish and Dutch, Artisjok. Danish, Artiskok. Italian, Articiocca, Carciofo. Spanish, Alcachofa. Portuguese, Alcachofra.

A native of Barbary and South Europe. Perennial (but culti- vated plants will not yield profitably after two or three years). Stem from 3 to 4 ft. high, straight, channelled ; leaves large, about 3 ft. long, whitish green above, and cottony underneath, decurrent on the stem, pinnatifid, with narrow lobes ; terminal flowers very large, composed of an assemblage of blue florets, covered with membranous overlapping scales, which, in cultivated plants, are fleshy at the base. Seed oblong, slightly flattened, somewhat angular, gray, streaked or marbled with deep brown. Its germinating power continues for six years.

Culture #

The Artichoke may be propagated from seed, or by dividing the stools, or from suckers. The last method is that which is most usually employed, as it is the only one by which the different varieties can be reproduced true to their proper character. Old stools of Artichokes produce underground, around the neck, a certain number of suckers or shoots which are intended to replace the stems which flowered the year before. These shoots are gene- rally too numerous on each stem to allow all to grow equally well, and it is the practice, in spring, to uncover, down to below the part from which the shoots issue, the old stools, which during the winter had been protected with a covering of soil or leaves. The shoots are then all detached from the stool, except two or three of the finest, which are allowed to remain to contribute to the crop. The operation of detaching the shoots is one which requires care and a practised hand, for it is important that along with each shoot a portion of the mother-plant (which is called the " heel “) should also be removed, without too severely wounding the old stool, as this might cause it to rot away. The shoots, as soon as they are detached, should be trimmed and dressed with a pruning-knife, so as to remove from the " heel " any parts that are bruised or torn, and to shorten the leaves a little ; the shoots may then be planted permanently. The best soil for a plantation of Artichokes is that which has been well dug, and is rich, deep, almost humid, and at the same time well drained. Low-lying level ground and valley- bottoms in which the soil is black and almost turfy are especially suitable for the cultivation of the Artichoke.

The shoots are planted in rows, at a distance from each other of from about 2 J ft. to nearly 4 ft. (according to the richness of the soil and the variety grown), and with the same distance between the rows. They are placed firmly in the ground, but not too deep, and then well watered, after which it is only necessary to keep the ground clean by frequent use of the hoe, and to water plentifully when watering is necessary. If the plants are sufficiently manured and watered, almost all of them will yield in the autumn of the Same year. Sometimes, instead of planting out the shoots per- manently immediately after they are detached, they are first planted in nursery-beds, from which they are afterwards removed and placed out permanently at the end of June or July. The success of the plantation is, in this way, more certain, and the yield in autumn is, at least, quite as abundant as that produced by following the other mode of planting.

When Artichokes are raised from seed, it should be sown in February or March, in a spent hot-bed, and the plants should be planted out permanently in May. Plants raised in this way may yield in the autumn of the first year. A sowing on the spot where the plants are to remain may also be made at the end of April or in May, but the plants thus obtained will not yield until the next year.

At the commencement of winter, Artichoke plants should be protected against frost, which sometimes destroys them in our climate. In order to do so, all the stems which have flowered should be removed from the stools by cutting them off as close to the root as possible. The longest leaves also should be shortened, after which soil should be heaped around the stools to the height of 8 or I o in. above the neck of the root, care being taken not to let any of it get into the heart of the plant. Should the frost be very severe, it is advisable to give the stools an additional covering of dry leaves or straw ; but it is important that this covering should be removed whenever the weather is mild, in order to prevent the danger of its rotting the plants. At the end of March, or in the beginning of April, when hard frost is no longer to be feared, the soil is stirred and manured if necessary, the protecting heaps are removed from about the stools, and the work of detaching the suckers or shoots is proceeded with as described above. It is advisable to partially renew plantations of Artichokes every year, and also not to allow any plantation to last more than four years.

Artichokes are grown in every British garden, but rarely so well as they deserve to be. The culture of the Artichoke varies somewhat according to situation and climate. In the north and midlands, it is necessary to cover it in winter with litter or leaves, to protect it from frost; in the south it is sufficient to earth it up, but even this precaution is not taken everywhere. The plants are increased by seed and offsets. Varieties of it, however, do not always come true from seed, and they re- quire, besides, more time than offsets before they produce heads; offsets, therefore, are most generally adapted. With good culture heads may be had for six months in succession. Commencing with established plants that have been protected through the winter, these will afford the first supply in May and June ; and, for the next two months, good heads may be had from a planting of strong suckers made in March; for the end of summer and autumn, from a suc- cessional planting made in May. Another very good plan is to cut back, close to the earth’s surface, a few old plants early in spring, and occasionally afterwards. These will produce a thicket of shoots, which should be early thinned by pulling and cutting the weakest, and allow- ing only a portion of the strongest suckers to remain. These will pro- duce, in succession, nice young heads. If the heads be allowed to attain their full growth, or nearly so, they are not so fine in flavour, and have lost most of their tenderness, so that only a part of the base of each scale and the base of the head are fit to eat. The Artichoke will grow luxuriantly in rich moist land in summer, but it will not stand our winter in wet quarters. It will grow on any kind of soil, if well manured, trenched, and pulverised; but no soil suits it better than a good open, sandy, rich loam, trenched and well manured. The plant is in its perfection at the second and third year after planting.

Years ago it was the custom in most gardens at the approach of winter to cover the plants entirely, or nearly, with litter, and then to bank them up with earth, in which condition they remained through the winter. The Artichoke is, how- ever, much hardier than was at that time supposed ; and plants not protected seldom suffer injury. All the protection they require in the severest weather is a few dry leaves or a handful of Bracken placed over the crowns of each plant, to be removed when the weather changes. Plants are often allowed to remain too long in one spot, and where this occurs the heads all come into use at one time. The best remedy for this is to make a small plantation every year, which will come in after the old roots head.

Artichokes may be often seen starved under trees, where neither light nor sun can reach them. A clear, open piece of good soil, well manured and deeply trenched up into rough ridges, to get well pulverised and sweetened by atmospheric influences, free from trees and hedges, is the proper place to plant them planting the first batch in March, and for succession another in May, afterwards keeping them thoroughly clean and maintaining an open free surface by often hoeing the ground about them. By such means a dozen stools will produce as many fine rich heads as double the quantity will do by the old-fashioned crowding, neglectful system. Make choice in early spring of good strong suckers, take off the stools carefully with a sharp, strong paddle-trowel or Asparagus knife, with some root or heel of the old stool to them, to hold them in the ground ; plant them singly 2 ft. apart, in rows at least 4 ft. apart, or in groups of three in triangles, at 4 ft. apart, at least, in the row. Protect them as soon as planted, against the sun and cutting winds, with Seakale pots which are out of use, or with evergreen boughs, or some other convenient protecting material. Those thus early planted will produce fine crisp heads the same summer and autumn. If in cutting heads the stems also be cut close to the ground, new suckers will soon appear, and if duly thinned will produce a late crop; thus, in various ways, by a little trouble and attention a regular supply of good Artichokes may be had from May to October, which will be much more satisfactory than having a glut at midsummer and none afterwards.

Copious supplies of manure water may be advantageously given to Artichokes during dry weather, especially in the case of old stools that have been in the same soil for a length of time. Previous to watering, the soil between the rows should be slightly pricked over with a fork, to allow of the water soak- ing in more readily. Whenever watering is attempted, let it be done thoroughly, and if a good mulching of half-rotten manure can be afterwards applied between the rows, it will keep the roots in a moist state for a long time, and the effects of the watering will soon be seen. When grown on poor or dry soils, the effect of covering the soil with light manure, lawn mowings, or any such material that can be spared is excellent. In rich, moist soils it is not wanted, except in very dry seasons.

Uses #

The base of the scales of the flower, and also the receptacle or bottom of the Artichoke, are eaten either cooked or raw. The stems and leaves may also be used, when blanched, like those of the Cardoon, to which they are in no way inferior in quality. The culture of this good vegetable deserves more atten- tion with us ; it should be more used as a vegetable, and the good French varieties should be grown more extensively. It is a vege- table of the highest value and delicacy when gathered fresh and properly cooked, as it may be in various ways. The London market often has heaps of Artichokes which have become shrivelled and “heated” on their long journey from the south of France, while our own valley soils are excellent for the plant.

Varieties #

Paris Artichoke #

Large Paris Artichoke– A vigorous, com- paratively hardy plant, of medium height ; leaves silvery gray, the ribs red- dish, especially at the base, and without spines; stems stiff, erect, usually with two or three branchings. Heads large, broader than long, particularly remark- able for the breadth of the receptacle or bottom of the Artichoke. Scales very fleshy at the base, at first very closely pressed together, then broken, and in the two upper rows slightly bent backwards.

They are pale green throughout, except at the base, where they are slightly tinged with violet ; they have few or no spines. The height of the stems does not exceed from 2\ to 3 ft, and a plant two years old will have three or four stems. This variety is the one which is most extensively cultivated in the neighbourhood of Paris. It is not a very early variety, but it is the best for yielding heads every year of its cultivation. No other variety has such a broad, thick, and fleshy receptacle or bottom ; it also reproduces itself fairly well from seed.

Green Provence Artichoke. A plant of medium height, with rather deep green leaves ; heads green, somewhat more elongated than those of the preceding variety, but not so thick ; scales of a uniform green, long, rather narrow and spiny, moderately fleshy at the base. This variety, which is extensively grown in the south of France, is usually eaten raw with pepper sauce. The seeds of this variety, when sown, always produce a large proportion of spiny plants.

Flat-headed Brittany Artichoke. A tall and vigorous plant, 3^ to 4^ ft. high ; leaves luxuriant ; heads large, broad, and short, nearly globular in shape, flat- tened on the top ; scales green, brown, or slightly tinged with violet on the edges, short and broad, rather fleshy at the base. This variety is very extensively cultivated in Anjou and Brittany, from which provinces large quantities are sent in May to the Central Market in Paris.

As the number of varieties of the Arti- choke is very great, we shall limit ourselves to mentioning only those which we con- sider the most worthy of notice next to the ones which we have cultivated.

Flat-headed Brittany Artichoke.

just described as being most generally



Copper-coloured Artichoke of Brittany. A rather low- growing plant ; heads round, large, violet at first, but red-copper colour as they advance in growth ; scales pointed.

Perpetual Artichoke. A medium-sized plant not exceeding

27 or 28 in. in height, with silvery gray leaves and red stems, deepening in colour at the base. The young heads are tinged with purple, which turns into purple-gray as their size increases. The scales are indented, spine- less, and very fleshy. It is much grown on the French Riviera for the sake of the numerous small heads it produces as early as January, which are usually eaten raw with oil and vinegar, as a delicate hors-d’tzuvre for which there is always a great demand. For this reason the plants are abundantly watered from the middle of August onward. When fully grown the heads may be cooked and eaten in the usual way.

Early Purple Globe Artichoke. A rather dwarf plant, not more than 28 in. in height ; leaves grayish green, large but much laciniated ; the heads are round, green when young, tinged with dark purple when full grown ; scales long, pointed, lightly spiny. Although this variety came first from the south of France, it does well all over France, owing to its earliness. Like the preceding, it is best for use when young. It has superseded the Purple Provence Artichoke, and, like it, is apt to take cold, and should not be uncovered tpo early in the spring.

Gray Artichoke. A variety with elongated, rather thin and loose heads, widening out at the top. It is “specially cultivated in the neighbourhood of Perpignan, is a very early kind, and flowers

Perpetual Artichoke.


almost continuously. It is sent in large quantities to the Central Market in Paris during the winter and in the beginning of spring.

Black English Artichoke. A very distinct kind, with nume- rous heads of medium size, nearly round and quite flat-topped, of a handsome dark violet colour.

Roscoff Artichoke. A very tall plant ; heads egg-shaped, of a rather pale green colour ; scales spiny.

Oblong St. Laud Artichoke. Heads large, elongated ; scales loosely overlapping each other at the base, and much more closely set at the top, scarcely emarginate, with a small spine at the point.

Sweet Artichoke of Genoa. A rather tender plant ; heads pale green, elongated, spiny. The flesh of the receptacle is yellow, sweet, and very delicate in flavour.

Purple Provence Artichoke. A rather low-growing plant, with swollen short and blunt heads, of rather deep violet when young and becoming green as they mature. A very productive variety, but only in spring, and somewhat impatient of cold.

Violet Quarantain Artichoke of Camargue. Plant of medium height ; heads rather small ; scales round, erect, of a violet-tinged green colour. An early variety.

Violet St. Laud Artichoke. Heads of medium size ; scales green on the exposed parts, but violet on the parts covered by other scales, and also on the tips.

Florence Artichoke. Heads very numerous, elongated, pointed, of an intense violet colour. This variety is very much grown in the neighbourhood of Florence. The heads, gathered when young and tender, are generally boiled and eaten entire.

Purple Venice Arti- choke. Heads of medium size, long, conical, dark purple, especially when Pur P Ie Venice Artichoke,

young ; scales fleshy and

delicate in flavour ; tinged with salmon-yellow on the part not exposed to the light. Hardy, but not very productive.