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Globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus L.) is an herbaceous perennial that is grown for its tender, edible, immature flower buds. The globe artichoke should not be confused with Jerusalem artichoke, another member of the composite family native to North America, which is grown for its fleshy tubers. Globe artichoke plants can become large: four to five feet tall and wide, with long, heavily serrated silvery green leaves (Figure 1a). Unopened flower buds resemble large pinecones (Figure 1b). Buds can grow up to three to four inches in diameter, are rounded at the base, and tapering to the tip or blocky in shape. Many spiny, pointed, green bracts (small, leaf-like structures) surround the hidden flower parts. The buds are harvested at an immature stage before they open and expose the flower. The base of each bract and the large fleshy base or receptacle (artichoke “heart”) on which the flower and bracts are borne are fleshy and edible. If the buds are allowed to mature and open, the resulting flowers are quite attractive, large, and fragrant (Figure 1c) , but the base and bracts harden and become inedible.
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Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Interim Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.
January 28, 2015