When you don’t harvest your artichokes in time they bloom. And then they look like sea anemones!
On the one hand, it’s a pity. One fewer chokes to steam and dab in mayonnaise or butter or… hollandaise sauce. Yum.
On the other hand, these giant thistle blossoms are stunning! The size of softball, and violet purple the same shade as those sickening candy-shelled, marshmallow filled Easter candies from my childhood. They honestly look like sea anemones. Beautiful. Lethal.
This year we had sooo many artichokes that allowing a few to blossom wasn’t such a sacrifice. In fact, now that the frosts have dried and desiccated the last couple of dozen chokes, I think it’s fair to venture an estimate of how many Imperial Start Artichokes we produced this summer.
We planted fifteen plants, and all survived. Until today I’d claimed that fourteen out of fifteen had produced chokes. Only one plant “aborted” as gardening books sometimes explain an artichoke that fails to produce an edible choke.
But today, with all of the plants beginning to expire I discovered that the one plant which had remained a bit dwarflike, failing to produce any artichokes was the most vital of them all. Short but lush with green foliage. And in the very center, a lime green artichoke!
So even our one “dud” had come through. Fifteen out of fifteen. Not bad.
The other fourteen plants produced, on average, 12-15 artichokes. Nobody believes me until they visit our vegetable garden and witness it for themselves. We’ve been harvesting for more than three months. I don’t think we’ll manage to eat any more, but on Saturday I gave away the last half dozen edible artichokes. So we grew at least 180 artichokes on a mere fifteen plants. This is far and away the best season we’ve ever had. Most of the credit goes to nature, good luck and attentive assistance from a couple of loyal watering helpers. But the single most notable difference between this summer and the preceding three years that we’ve experimented with Imperial Star Artichokes is that we planted them in mounds to ensure that the roots wouldn’t rot if we received excessive rain. That seems to help. We’ll repeat next year.
And now, as we put this summer’s garden to rest for the winter, I’m tempted to try and overwinter a few of the artichokes. Last year’s attempt flopped, but I’m curious to see if it isn’t possible to keep a few plants alive to produce again next year. Any advice?