The Q&A Archives: Imperial Star Hybrid Artichoke

Question: I live in the low desert near Palm Springs. When is the best time to sow seeds of Imperial Star Artichoke? Will the plant come back next year or reseed?. Also how can I tell if it is ready to pick?

Answer: Although the catalog describes the artichoke as being an annual, in your area (and most parts of California), artichoke plants are perennials. Sow the seeds as soon as the ground warms in the spring. The plants will produce a fountain of leaves and several flowering stalks. The artichokes are the unopened buds of thistle-like flowers. They can be harvested just as the bottom most 'petals' begin to separate from the rest of the bud. If you harvest too soon, the 'chokes will be hard and tasteless. If you harvest too late, the inside thistle-like center will have enlarged too much. So, experience will be the best teacher, but expect the first 'chokes to be ready to harvest about three months after you first plant the seeds. In the winter you can cut the foliage back to about half its height, or tie the foliage together and fold it over the center of the plant. New leaves will sprout in the spring, at which time you can cut back any remaining dead foliage to make room for the new leaves.

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