Artichokes have a rich history, versatile uses, and an intriguing cultivation process. Native to the Mediterranean region, artichokes have been cultivated for thousands of years, with their origins traced back to ancient Greece and Rome where they were highly esteemed for both their culinary and medicinal properties, believed to aid digestion and liver health.
Easy to grow, they start in spring as small green shoots and develop into large towering thistle like plants.
The tight and unopened flower buds are cooked and their tender, savory, and slightly nutty flavored hearts are eaten on its own, with a dressing, in salads, stuffed and many other ways.
To cook the buds cut off any stem and boil it facing upward in lightly salted water for around 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the bud. Often a pan full are cooked as they store in the fridge.
Whilst easy to grow and cook, a certain amount of hand dexterity is needed to pull off the green outside petals, which are edible at the base, and also remove the central prickly petals to leave just the soft hearts.
Regularly picking the buds produces even more buds, and uneaten buds open into striking purple flowers with silvery green leaves. After flowering the plant dies down, but new young shoots emerge from the ground and develop into next year's crop.
Artichokes are ornamental plants that are easy to grow, although they take a bit of space, are reliable croppers, taste great, are easy to cook and a little fiddly to eat.