GLOBE ARTICHOKE (cynara scolymus), is a perennial thistle which originated in the Mediterranean areas. It may be the cultivated form of the cardoon from North Africa. It requires a lot of space, about 1 m x 1 m and can grow to a height of 1.5 to 2 m. It has very attractive glaucous green leaves, as well as the large edible flower buds, which if left to flower, are also attractive and are very popular with bees. This is why it is frequently found in flower borders as an ornamental plant.
Eventually, it dies down over winter and needs some protection in the North from penetrating frosts and rain to successfully over-winter. I cover mine with an old container, once the leaves have died down.
The part that is eaten is the flower bud while still young and tender, and long before it flowers. In particular, the edible parts are the base, known as the heart, and the lower, fleshy portions of the triangular scales or bracts. The “choke” or the immature florets, are inedible and have to be removed using a small spoon, during the preparation of the flower buds for cooking, as demonstrated by the half-prepared photo.
If left to flower, it will produce a beautiful thistle-like flower (see photo). The flower heads and stems can be successfully dried by hanging them up in a dry sunny position, to make spectacular displays.
Growing from seed is easy. Sow the seeds in individual pots of free draining compost, in heat in February or March. When they are large enough, plant out in a sunny spot in their final position, where they will grow for several years. A general fertilizer will benefit their growth. If they have been started early, they may produce buds in their first season.
Propagation from offsets is straightforward (see photo). During the growing season, separate an offset, including it’s roots, using a spade and replant it in its final position.
For cooking instructions, see Basic Vegetable Cooking.
Storage. After they have been cooked, it is possible to freeze them.
JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE (Helianthus tuberosus) is a perennial species of sunflower from Eastern North America. They were cultivated by the Native Americans long before the Europeans arrived. They are useful as a windbreak as they grow to about 2.5m high, topped off by small yellow sunflowers. The edible part, the tubers, form below ground and mostly consist of carbohydrate.The edible tubers are an acquired taste and can be “windy”. The tubers can be left in the ground over winter and are best dug up as required to minimise them losing moisture and becoming flabby.
Health Benefits. Rich in iron, potassium vitamin B1, soluable fibre inulin.
They are cultivated by placing tubers in well fertilized ground, about 10 cm deep and 30 cm apart. Apart from ensuring that they do not dry out and are supported in a windy location, there is not much else to do till early winter when they can be lifted. The process should be repeated by planting in a new location in following years, as they are greedy feeders.
The tubers are lifted as required, and scrubbed to remove all earth before cooking.
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