May 2021 - Cynara Scolymus
Our Plant of the Month for May is renowned for its unique beauty, delicious, edible flower buds, and historical significance. This Mediterranean native has been used to make teas and aperitifs and is chock full of vitamins and other trace nutrients; so much so that as of late, it has even earned the reputation as something of a ‘super food.’
Cynara Scolymus is known to most of as the Globe, French, or Green Artichoke. It is mentioned in the historical texts of Pliny the Elder, and there is some debate as to whether the ancient Greeks or Romans first used this plant for food. Regardless, the Artichoke has been with us for a very long time. The Artichoke that we are familiar with was improved during the Moorish period in Southern Spain and found favor in a variety of cuisines throughout the world. Today, the California kitchen during spring and summer would not be complete without some Artichoke heads close at hand. The heads are actually the flower buds and can be prepared in ways too numerous to mention here.
Artichokes grow well in full sun with loamy or improved clay soil. Well-established chokes don’t need much supplemental water; however, some water applied during spring with a light feeding or soil top dressing of manure will encourage succulent buds that you can harvest for your table from late spring and into summer. Cut the bud with about 2 or 3 inches of stem, and new growth may occur. If cooking isn’t your thing, let the buds mature and be prepared for a stunning display of purple flowers that contrast well with the plant's bold, greenish silver foliage.
Plant artichokes in borders, around patios, or as a foundation plant. The bold, unusual foliage lasts year-round, and of course, you can enjoy them in the kitchen or as a brilliant spring and summer floral display. For this and other plants that provide summertime interest, please visit santacruz.watersavingplants.org