Artichokes have a delicate flavour and are considered a gourmet vegetable. They can be produced from seeds but rooted cuttings can produce faster results.
There are hundreds of varieties of artichoke to choose from. You can still buy a few of the old historic varieties such as 'Violetta di Chioggia', and 'Gros Vert de Laon'. The edible flower is produced from the second year onwards, although some varieties of artichoke can be grown from seed as annuals.
Artichokes require good soil, regular watering and feeding. Add plenty of well rotted manure to the soil and add grit to improve drainage if you have clay soil. Add a general purpose fertiliser to the soil before planting.
Plant out in spring when the risk of frost have passed. Select a sunny sheltered position at 1 metre spacing in a rich, deep, free draining soil. Dig a hole bigger than the sucker and plant the sucker at the same soil level. Fill the hole with soil, ensuring the plant is firm, and water well.
Ensure the plants do not dry out in hot weather. Feed the plants once a week with a good quality liquid plant fertiliser. In the autumn cut back the stems and cover the crown with a thick mulch to protect from frost. Add a layer of well rotted manure to the plants in the spring.
In the first year remove any flower heads as they form as the plants need to put all their energy into growth. During the second year you can harvest the artichokes. Select the main terminal (top) bud first, then the side buds.
The season for harvesting artichokes is the spring, but this can continue into the summer and mid-autumn. Cut artichokes 3-5 cm from the stem. They process good keeping qualities, remaining fresh for several weeks