The globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus L.), usually just called “artichoke,” originated in the Mediterranean region. This herbaceous, thistle-like plant is produced for its immature, edible flower buds. The thorny green globe-shaped vegetable was first brought to the United States in the 1800s, where it was grown in Louisiana by French settlers and in California by Spanish immigrants.
Today, artichokes are sold fresh, frozen, or canned, often in the form of marinated artichoke hearts. When cooked without seasoning, the vegetable’s tender petals carry a subtle flavor often compared to the taste of fried egg white. Artichokes can be eaten hot or cold. The vegetable is frequently steamed or boiled with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and other seasonings.
Italy is the world’s largest producer, followed by Egypt, Spain, and Peru. In the United States, commercial production is limited almost exclusively to California, responsible for nearly all of the nation’s supply. The artichoke is California’s official state vegetable and is grown from Marin to Santa Barbara counties, with Monterey County topping production volume. Castroville is called the Artichoke Capital of the state and hosts an annual festival. Washington and Oregon also grow artichokes, but in much smaller quantities.
Globe artichokes should not be confused with the root crop known as the Jerusalem artichoke.
References: Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, California Artichoke Advisory Board, USDA, Virginia Cooperative Extension.
TYPES, VARIETIES & CUTS
There are two primary varietal classifications of globe artichokes. The Italian type, or Green Globe (also known as Heirloom), is the most popular, and has a long, somewhat pointed bud. The second variety, the French type, has a short, thick, rounded bud with a flat end and is not as marketable due to lower yields and packing challenges.
California’s Green Globe artichokes are planted as a seasonal, slow-growing perennial and take nine months to mature from multi-shoot rootstock. Annual varieties are planted through transplants or direct seeding, have a single producing stalk, and thrive in the state’s coastal regions. Varieties include the Imperial Star, Desert Globe, and Big Heart.
References: Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, Purdue University, USDA.
PESTS & DISEASE
Artichoke plume moth larvae are small, wormlike pests that feed on the floral buds of plants, making them unmarketable. Larvae may also feed on developing shoots, damaging the plant. Aphids are pale green or yellow and damage leaves, causing them to curl and turn yellow, eventually stunting the plant. Secreted honeydew can result in sooty mold on leaves, which can interfere with subsequent growth. Snails and slugs are a serious concern for perennial artichokes in winter. Feeding on all parts of the plant, these pests can infest an entire field and damage buds, causing them to turn black. Other pests of concern include spider mites and earworms.
Curly dwarf is a disease that causes curling and distortion of leaves, resulting in smaller, stunted plants with deformed, unmarketable buds. Infected plants can suffer substantially reduced yields and eventually die. Botrytis rot, also known as grey mold, is a greyish-brown fungus that develops on parts of the plant previously damaged by insects or frost. The fungus can quickly spread from injured leaves and flowers. Bacterial crown rot causes stunted plants with wilted, brown leaves and rotted brown or black root tissues. Some infected plants may collapse altogether. Other diseases of note include powdery mildew, damping off, and verticillium wilt.
References: University of California Cooperative Extension, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.