Scientific Name: Cynara scolymus
See also: ARTICHOKE - PURPLE GLOBE
Globe Artichoke originates in the Mediterranean and was grown by the Greeks and Romans who regarded the buds as a delicacy — today it is still considered a gourmet vegetable.
Globe artichoke is a large and striking semi-perennial vegetable with arching silvery-green deeply toothed leaves — good-looking enough to grow in the ornamental garden. It bears thistle-like flowers, 8-15cm across with numerous triangular scales and green florets. The edible parts are the fleshy base of the outer scales, the central 'heart' and the bottom of the artichoke itself.
Globe Artichoke can grow up to a height of 1.2 to 1.5m and need to be planted 1 m apart. It needs full sun, well-drained soil and must be protected from frost.
Improve the soil by digging in plenty of well-rotted organic matter in spring or autumn before planting. This will prevent summer drought and winter water logging — conditions that Globe Artichokes dislike.
Each flowering stem produces one large artichoke at the tip and several smaller ones below. A few flower heads will be produced in the first year — it is best to remove them so that the plant’s energy goes into establishing itself. If you do not want to remove them, they must be harvested in late summer. In the second and third year more stems will be produced and the buds will be ready to harvest in mid-summer.
Harvest and parts used
For culinary use:
Harvest the immature buds when the scales are still tightly closed, removing the main bud first with 5 - 7.5cm of stem still intact. Harvest the remaining side buds as they grow large enough. Alternatively, leave the main bud to mature and remove the side buds for eating when they are 4cm long. When the scales begin to open, Globe Artichokes become inedible and too tough to eat. Globe Artichokes can be stored for up to a week in a polythene bag in the fridge.
For medicinal use:
The leaves and flowering buds are cut just before flowering for use, fresh or dried, in liquid extracts, syrups and capsules.
The unopened flower heads are boiled in salted water with lemon juice and a dash of olive oil. To check if they are ready, push a knife through the heart, or try a basal leaf to check for tenderness. Eat Globe Artichoke hot by hand, with the leaves being pulled off one by one and dipped in a variety of sauces, mayonnaise, plain yoghurt or melted butter, before scraping off the fleshy leaf base between your teeth. Pull off the hairy central choke or remove it with a spoon and then eat the fleshy heart. It can also be eaten cold with vinaigrette or used in salads. The hearts can be marinated, baked, fried or garnished for roasts, filled with vegetables or sauces.
Globe Artichoke is an important medicinal herb — the total antioxidant capacity of an artichoke flower head is one of the highest reported for a vegetable. Artichoke buds and leaves are rich in iodine, calcium, iron, protein and vitamins A, B1, and C. They also consist of 85% water. Half its carbohydrate content is indigestible inulin which turns to fructose in storage. Artichokes owe their delicate, tangy taste to the bitter substance "cynarin", a substance that has significant regenerating effects, as well as having diuretic properties. Cynarin is also a sweet-tasting, water-soluble chemical found in the saliva therefore anything you eat after an artichoke, will taste sweet.
Globe Artichoke contains a wide number of other active constituents like dicaffeoylquinic acid, caffeoylquinic acids, flavonoids, scolymoside and bitters, amino acids, phosphorus, potassium, folic acid, niacin, thiamine, trace minerals and carotenoids.
Halved artichoke buds can be boiled to brew a herbal tea with a mildly sweet and pleasant taste — tasting like pure artichoke. This acts as a liver tonic, brakes down fat, aids digestion, detoxifies, strengthens gall bladder function, improves bile flow and treats jaundice and hepatitis. It raises the HDL/LDL ratio and reduces cholesterol levels, which diminishes the risk for arteriosclerosis and coronary heart disease.
A tea made with artichoke leaves also has proven to reduce cholesterol and lower blood cholesterol.
Globe Artichoke also contains bioactive agents that have an effect on beneficial gut bacteria. Artichoke leaf tincture has proved helpful for patients with functional dyspepsia, indigestion, nausea and flatulence.
Globe Artichoke is considered a kidney tonic — it is diuretic, promoting the flow of urine and appears to be effective in improving kidney function. Artichoke is frequently used to eliminate excess water weight and peripheral edema, a condition in which the peripheral body tissues contain an excessive amount of tissue fluid.
Globe Artichoke has hypoglycemic activity that may assist in
lowering blood glucose levels. It is a traditional remedy in the
Americas and Spain for treating diabetes.