There are a lot of vegetables we forget about when it comes time to planning a vegetable garden, and artichokes are one of them. However, they aren’t that difficult to grow and provide a unique taste to your culinary experience. Find out when artichokes are ready to eat and how to harvest them.
When to harvest artichokes? Artichokes are ready at different times of the year, depending on where you live. The most common growing seasons are late spring and early fall. However, if you live in a warm climate, such as California, you may be able to harvest artichokes year-round.
While artichokes are technically a perennial plant, they will only thrive in temperate climates with warm winters and cool summers. Those with more extreme seasons will have to treat artichokes like annual plants.
The main part of the plant will produce a large green bud. If left too long, these will open and flower, so they need to be harvested before that.
Most plants will have a central bud as well as multiple side buds. More mature plants will have up to 10 side buds.
The central bud can be harvested when it is 3 to 5 inches wide and the side buds are ready when they are 1 to 2 inches wide. Cut the stems about 2 inches below the base of the bud.
Once you harvest them, the outer parts of the artichoke need to be removed. Only the inner, artichoke hearts are edible. Remove the top third part of the artichoke bud as this is too sharp and hard to eat. The outer two layers around the stem also need to be removed.
Finally, cut off the tops of the remaining leaves as the sharp points are inedible. You will be left with a gorgeous sheaf of layers.
Are artichokes perennials or annuals?
Before you harvest your artichokes it’s important to understand if what you have planted is a perennial, meaning it will continue to grow each year, or an annual, meaning you need to re-plant seeds every year.
Interestingly, artichokes are technically perennials. They can grow for up to 10 years, providing larger and larger crops each season.
However, artichokes only grow as a perennial in climates with mild winters and cool summers. Too much heat or too much cold and this delicate plant won’t thrive.
Don’t despair if you live in a climate with very cold winters and very hot summers as you can still grow artichokes. The one thing to note is you will have to treat them like an annual and re-plant each year.
If you live in an area with extreme seasons, try growing the Green Globe variety as it does well as an annual plant.
How does location affect the harvest season of artichokes?
You may have realized by now that artichokes are delicate and fussy plants. It should be no surprise that when they are ready to harvest they can greatly vary by climate.
If you live in warm coastal areas, expect artichokes to grow during winter, have flowers bud in May, and then be able to harvest through June.
For those with slightly colder winters, artichokes will become dormant in the winter and then emerge in the spring and be ready for harvest through to June.
Some areas are able to get a second harvest in the fall, but again, this is entirely weather-dependent.
How do you know when your artichokes are ready to harvest?
Now that you have determined what climate you live in and when your artichokes will be ready for harvest, it’s time to look at specific signs.
First, let’s better understand the definition of artichoke plants and their different parts. Each plant has a stalk that will produce flower buds. Before the bud flowers, the bud can be harvested and be eaten.
Perennial artichokes that continue to grow will produce more side buds which you can also harvest. Over time, the number of side buds will grow, meaning older plants will produce more artichokes.
There is a sweet spot between when the artichoke buds emerge and when they turn to flowers, which render them inedible.
Once the buds start forming, you want to really pay attention to their size. The central bud, or choke, should be 3 to 5 inches across. As for secondary buds, or chokes, they should be 1 to 2 inches wide.
Be sure to harvest during this period. Too late and the buds will become tough before they eventually flower and are no longer edible.
What happens if you don’t harvest artichokes?
Because the edible part of artichokes is the bud part, if you don’t harvest them, they will simply bloom and turn to flowers.
In actuality, these flowers are quite spectacular. The artichoke plant is a member of the thistle family so you can expect something similarly wispy.
The flowers are large and fragrant and make a great addition to any bouquet.
For those that live in more temperate climates, your artichoke plants will continue to grow the following year, allowing for another harvest.
However, if you miss a harvest and you have a very cold winter, your artichokes will wilt and die and you will need to plant new ones the next season.
How to harvest artichokes?
While there are many tricky parts to growing and caring for artichokes, harvesting them is rather simple.
Just take a sharp knife and cut it across the stem. You want the cut to be about 2 inches below the bottom of the bud.
Artichokes will have a central choke as well as side chokes. These can be harvested when they reach the desired size, 3 to 5 inches wide for the central bud and 1 to 2 inches for the side buds.
These will be ready at different times so you want to pay attention and harvest the buds before they open and blossom.
Should you wash artichokes after harvesting?
While the outside of an artichoke needs a good cleaning, the inside of it does not have to. Wait until you are ready to eat your artichoke as you don’t want the excess water to turn the vegetable into rot.
Rinse the artichoke on the outside to remove any dust and dirt. Once you cut into the artichoke, the middle part should be protected from any dirt thanks to the outside layers.
Can you eat artichokes immediately after harvesting?
While you can eat artichokes fairly soon after harvesting them, it can’t be immediate. The artichoke is a complex vegetable and proper care is useful when getting them ready to eat.
After harvesting an artichoke, take a serrated knife and cut off the top third of the bud. This will seem like a lot of waste but the outside of the bud isn’t actually edible.
You will see plenty of layers with an artichoke and really, they are quite gorgeous. Remove the outer two layers from the stem area.
Next, you will need to use a pair of sharp kitchen scissors. For the remaining outer layers, use scissors to trim the sharp tips.
If you would like your artichoke to lie flat, you can cut off the stem. For those with more experience, you can peel the artichoke with a pairing knife.
After all this work, you can now enjoy your artichoke. Steaming is the easiest and also traps all the flavors and nutrients inside. However, you can also grill, boil, and even can artichokes.
If you want to store your artichokes for a while, don’t trim them until you are ready to eat them. To store them in the fridge, place your artichokes in a plastic bag and then sprinkle a bit of water on them. With this method, they will last up to two weeks in the fridge.
If you want to freeze your artichokes, you will have to trim them so you can expose the inner part, also known as artichoke hearts.
Once trimmed, blanch the hearts in boiling water for one to two minutes. Transfer them to a bowl of ice water and then place them on a towel to dry.
Finally, put your artichoke hearts in an airtight container and place them in the freezer. They will last for up to a year.
One other method of preserving your artichokes is by canning them. Prepare the artichoke hearts as discussed above. You can also quarter the hearts so that they better fit inside jars.
Create a mixture of 2 cups lemon juice, 2 cups olive oil, and 2 cups white vinegar. Fill the jars with the artichokes and then add the brine.
Place the jars in a water bath canner. If done correctly, your preserved artichokes will last for up to six months.
Artichokes are quite delicate and need a bit of proper care which is why they are not as common in vegetable gardens. However, these tasty vegetables can be harvested through the late spring and early summer, in the fall, and even year-round in warmer areas.