Globe Artichokes (Cynara scolymus)

How well established is this crop?

This is a very new crop to the Otago region. The plants should grow but information on markets, commercial returns, current growers, and any form of regional research may be difficult to find.

Background

The globe artichoke is grown for its edible flower head and should not be confused with the Jerusalem artichoke which is grown for its roots. The head can be eaten fresh, frozen or preserved making it an ideal crop to add value to before sale.

The globe artichoke is thought to have originated in the Mediterranean and is a common part of French and Italian cuisine. With settlers immigrating to the new world, large areas of artichokes can now be found in countries such as America.

Globe artichokes have been grown in the gardens of Otago for years and some small commercial plantings have even been tried for both the domestic and export markets near Palmerston.

Climate

Globe artichokes like a mild winter with warm summers. One of the major centres of world production the Californian coast near Monterrey. This is a similar climate to parts of coastal Otago.

Winter Chilling and Frosts

Globe artichokes are not very frost hardy so most growers wait until the danger of frosts is over before planting new stock. They are a perennial with foliage dying down in the winter before re-emerging in the spring.

Rainfall and Irrigation

During the growing season and especially in the period before harvest, water must be applied to the crop if rainfall is not sufficient. Without it head size will be much reduced.

Wind

When grown on a paddock/commercial scale, shelter from the wind is not common.

Soil

The key physical requirement of the soil for Globe artichokes is that it is deep and well drained.

Fertility

Globe artichokes tend to be quite an aggressive grower and do need a fertile soil to do well in. Soil and foliage tests, followed by expert analysis of the results, is the best way to determine fertilisers for this crop.

Weed Control

Globe artichokes are a perennial so weed control is essential for the crop to do well. Starting with a stale seedbed is a good first step. After this hand and hoe weeding is the best method.

Varieties

Crop and Food Research has assessed a number of lines of Globe artichokes. The common variety in the garden stores is Green Globe but improved lines such as Emerald and others from Italy may be better for the export market.

Some growers overseas use cuttings from old plants instead of growing new lines from seed. This reduces plant variation but can lead to problems with viruses over time.

Pests and Diseases

Aphids have been observed on Globe artichokes and spiders can spin webs in amongst the flower bracts. Apart from that, few pests are common.

Layout

Globe artichokes can grow very large. Allow at least 1-1.5m between plants. This leaves a big area to weed between the plants before they mature, but they will fill in the gap.

General Management

As most people grow globe artichokes as a perennial, management is relatively simple. After planting, weeding is the most important task and irrigation is needed as the crop matures. In the autumn the plants will need to be cut back to prevent any disease on the foliage carrying over to the next season.

Harvest

Heads are hand harvested in the middle of summer before the flower bracts open up. A few small heads will be harvested in the first season after planting. The volume will increase as the plants mature up to around 2kg of heads.

Like any vegetable the heads must be taken from the field and placed in a chiller as soon as possible.

Equipment

Depending on the size of the planting, a block could be managed by hand or a small tractor could be used. The ability to get heads from the field and into a chiller is also crucial.

Returns

Because this is a new crop with no established producers, returns are hard to assess. Growers have tried domestic auctions as well as direct sales to restaurants. The latter method maximises grower returns, but means more paperwork.

Contacts

Crop and Food Research www.crop.cri.nz

Vegetable Growers Handbook
Agro-Research Publishing 2000
PO Box 8264
Havelock North
06 876 5950
ewallac@clear.net.nz

New Zealand Vegetable & Potato Growers Federation (Inc)
PO Box 10232
Wellington
New Zealand

Phone 04 472 3795 Grower Freephone: 0800 2 VEGFED (283433)
Fax: 04 471 2861
E-mail: information@vegfed.co.nz
Internet:
www.vegfed.co.nz
www.vegetables.co.nz
www.greencuisine.co.nz