The Regal Thistle: Heirloom Artichokes

A member of the thistle family, artichokes can make a flavorful and uniquely beautiful addition to your garden.

  • A favorite of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, ‘Green Globes’ need a fairly long and mild growing season.
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  • ‘Violet de Provence’ Rare outside of Europe, this French heirloom has tasty buds that are purple in color.
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  • ‘Gobbo Di Nizzia Cardoon’ A rare cardoon from Italy, its broad white stalks are eaten fried, sauteed, pickled, in soups, or raw and dipped in olive oil with balsamic vinegar. The root is also edible, tasty, and can be used like parsnips.
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  • ‘Purple of Romagna’ Bountiful producer of smaller chokes in rich purple-violet shades.
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Put your artichoke bounty to use with these tasty recipes: Creamy Goat Cheese Artichoke and Chive Dip Recipe, Artichoke Heart Pasta Sauce Recipe, Tuna and Artichoke Heart Panini Recipe.

At twilight, the silver ethereal glow from an artichoke plant draws the eye to its fountain of regal, deeply-cut leaves. The plant, which can get to 4 feet in height and span 5 feet or more, is a dominant focus of the garden. The harvested buds yield meaty bottomed petals perfect for dipping. The hearts, with a natural, savory sweetness, lend themselves to pickling, pasta dishes, salads, and sauces for seafood and chicken. When left to bloom, the buds become dramatic, show-stopping purple blossoms atop the grand spread of its gray-green frosted leaves and stalwart stem.

Artichokes, cardoons and thistles are all related. The cardoon and artichoke have been cultivated for culinary uses since Roman times. They can be grown successfully in a wide variety of climates, taking care to select the proper type of plant and attend to its cultural needs.


Artichokes are excellent sources of fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants. Folate, vitamin K, potassium, and magnesium are present in generous amounts. They’re also very low in saturated fat and cholesterol, a good source of niacin, B6, iron, phosphorus, and copper.

Their qualities have proven remedial effects on the liver and are used to stimulate and aid digestion. Cynar is an Italian artichoke-based aperitif drunk before meals to spark the appetite. Artichoke rusks are given to teething babies. A number of digestive tonics in over-the-counter medicines contain artichokes as an ingredient.



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