The globe artichoke is a thistle species variety that is cultivated as food in many parts of the world. The flower buds prior to flower blooming constitute the edible part of the plant. The blooming flower is coarse and hardly edible. Italy is the biggest producer of artichoke in the world.
The Artichoke Plant
The plant grows 4.6 to 6.6 ft tall and possesses 20 to 32 inch long glaucous-green leaves that are deeply lobed and arching. The flowers develop from an edible bud that is about 3 to 6 inches in diameter. The individual florets are colored purple.
Cultivation Of Artichokes
Artichokes can be produced by sexual or asexual reproductive techniques. The latter involves vegetative means like micropropagation, division, and root cuttings. Artichoke cultivation requires good soil, frost protection in winter, and regular soil watering and nutrient supplies. Spring is the peak season for harvesting artichokes. The artichoke buds are harvested by cutting from the plant. The artichokes have a good shelf-life and remain quite fresh for a fortnight under average storage conditions.
Production Of Artichoke
Today, the cultivation of artichoke is mainly concentrated in the nations along the Mediterranean basin, parts of North Africa, North and South America. Italy, Spain, and France are the top European artichoke producers. The United States is the ninth major artichoke producer. Here, the state of California contributed nearly 100% of the US crop of which nearly 80% is grown in the Monterey County. Peru and Argentina are major South American artichoke producers. North African countries like Egypt, Morocco, and Algeria also contribute significantly towards the global artichoke production. China is the only Asian country that features in the list of top 10 artichoke producing nations in the world.
Uses Of Artichokes
Artichokes are boiled or steamed and when cooked without seasoning, the artichoke has a flavor similar to a fried egg white. The softer parts of the vegetable are also eaten raw by dipping in vinegar or olive oil. Artichoke meat fillings are often used to enhance the taste of the dish in parts of North Africa and the Middle East. Artichokes are also used to prepare a type of herbal tea called the "Artichoke tea.” The Italian liqueur Cynar also uses artichoke flavor. In medical research, the leaf extract of this vegetable has been investigated for effects on cholesterol levels. The artichoke plant is also used for ornamental purposes due to its bright floral display.