Globe artichokes (Cynara scolymus L.)

Article and Photos: Ange McNeilly (Canberra Organic – Winter 2019)

Globe artichokes, harvested mid-November 2018 at Ange’s Charnwood plot. Photo: Ange McNeilly
Globe artichokes, harvested mid-November 2018 at Ange’s Charnwood plot. Photo: Ange McNeilly

I love to grow globe artichokes for their majestic sculptural form, large grey serrated leaves and spectacular giant thistle-like flowers and also because they remind me of my childhood!

Globe artichokes (carciofi, in Italian) were grown by my parents in their extensive and productive fruit and vegetable garden at O’Connor from the early 1960’s. At that time, artichokes were not well known or grown in Canberra except by migrants who came mainly from around the Mediterranean region. Today, globe artichokes feature in many cafe and restaurant menus and are readily available in shops and markets, both fresh and processed.

Fresh: The way we ate them fresh was to pick them when they were smallish so they were not too tough, washed them, removed the outer tough petals and cut off the thorny ends. We would peel a petal off, dip it in a dipping bowl of olive oil, salt and red wine vinegar and eat it, leaving the top bit if tough. Another way was to prepare them as above and to slice them thinly into a mixed green garden salad dressed with olive oil, salt and red wine vinegar.

Cooked: When in season, my Mother would make stuffed artichokes in a tomato sauce (Carciofi ripieni con sugo) using a mixture of seasoned breadcrumbs, egg and herbs. She would start from the outer petals, filling around and towards the centre. She would then fry these in olive oil until browned, set them aside and make the tomato sauce using garlic, a red chilli, tomato passata, some water and salt and pepper. When the sauce had cooked for about 15 to 20 minutes, the artichokes would be placed in the pot and cooked until tender for about 30 to 45 minutes. Sometimes my mother would also cook spaghetti, sprinkled with grated parmesan or pecorino cheese, to go with the artichokes and sauce. Delicious! (There are many recipes on the internet for stuffed artichokes either braised in sauce or baked in the oven. For meat lovers, some recipes use minced meat for the stuffing instead of just the breadcrumbs).

Preserved: When there was an abundance of artichokes they would be preserved. This was done by removing the tough outer petals, trimming off the thorny ends and stalks and quartered. The artichokes were then cooked for a few minutes in boiling white wine vinegar and water, drained, cooled, seasoned with crushed dried oregano, sliced garlic, salt and dried chilli flakes. They were then packed into sterilised jars, topped with olive oil and sealed tightly. These marinated artichoke hearts were served with antipasti.

I have not given precise measurements as the above recipes were not written down and were made from memory. However, there are many recipes for preparing, cooking and preserving artichokes on the internet.

Globe artichoke flowers are very decorative when dried either in their natural state or they can be spray painted in bright colours for a wonderful arrangement. Photo: Ange McNeilly
Globe artichoke flowers are very decorative when dried either in their natural state or they can be spray painted in bright colours for a wonderful arrangement. Photo: Ange McNeilly

NB: Read more on Globe Artichokes on the COGS Growing Guide page.