How to plant and grow: Artichokes

Artichokes may look like vegetable armadillos, but they are incredibly tasty and
versatile and can be used in salads, soups and rice and pasta dishes. Spring is the
perfect time to start growing your own artichokes, and whilst each plant takes up a
fair bit of space, there is no competition between your own fresh artichokes and the
hard, tasteless ones you can buy from the supermarket.

1. If starting from seeds, plant them up in four-inch pots and fertilize and water them
well. After eight to ten weeks when the plant has reached about eight inches high,
you can plant outside in warm weather. However, it is not recommended to do this
so where possible, grow using cuttings or offsets.

2. Prepare the sunny planting area with nitrogen-based compost. Whilst the plants
will grow tall and can act as a wind-breaker, it is recommended that you use a
location that is protected from strong winds.

3. The offsets (which should be at least eight inches tall, whether grown yourself or
bought from a garden centre) should be planted two inches deep with about three
feet (or one metre) between each seed. We told you they need a lot of space!

4. The ends of the leaves should be trimmed to about five inches long and then the
offsets should be well watered. Always keep an eye on the offsets; the soil around
them should never be allowed to dry out.

5. In the first year, pinch out all the flower buds so not to allow the artichoke buds
to flower. By doing this, you will allow fewer but much bigger and softer artichoke
flowers to grow in the future which are much tastier.

6. In the second year you can start harvesting your artichokes. The main buds,
known as ‘king heads’, can be harvested once the buds are big enough to eat but
are yet unopened. Purple or opened artichokes are inedible. Cut the buds off about
six inches below the bud; a smaller, second crop of artichokes will come through.

7. Remember on the third year to take your own offsets to start replanting as your
original artichoke plant will fade out and have to be replenished.

8. All that is left to do is to find those artichoke recipes and get cooking!