The Globe Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) is a perennial thistle originating in Southern Europe around the Mediterranean.
It grows to 1.5–2 m tall, with arching, deeply lobed, silvery glaucous-green leaves 50–82 cm long.
The flowers develop in a large head from an edible bud about 8–15 cm diameter with numerous triangular scales; the individual florets are purple.
Globe Artichokes are a gourmet treat, and are very popular in the Mediterranean regions.
The edible portion of the buds consists primarily of the fleshy lower portions of the involucral bracts and the base, known as the "heart"; the mass of immature florets in the center of the bud is called the "choke".
The best part of all is the heart. These are inedible in older larger flowers.
We can eat the fleshy base of the 'scales' dipped in butter and sauté the hearts as a delicious appetiser.
Artichokes are perennial architectural plants, looking very stately and spectacular at the back of a mixed border in your garden, as well as being grown for the edible flowers on your allotment.
First year plants grown from seed will sometimes only produce two or three heads, established plants can produce twenty to thirty heads each season.
Some years you may get a second crop in late autumn.
To encourage this; leave the small secondary heads on the plant at harvest time.