Friday, June 24, 2011

Artichokes on Steroids... er... Compost

Do you recall the little artichoke plant that was keeping the strawberries company a few months ago?  Well, would you believe that this monster is the same plant?

Holy cow!  This artichoke turned into a beast!  It was planted in March and in only 3 months it seems to have taken over the world.  I attribute the amazing growth rate to the exceptionally cool, foggy and rainy spring we've just been through - that's perfect artichoke weather.  However, as I've never grown it before this crazy growth rate could just be normal arti behavior.  Regardless, it is clear that I'm going to need to come up with some awesome recipes to do this bounty justice.

Artichokes are heavy feeders and they like lots of compost dug in prior to planting.  When they start to produce fruits, you want to cut the head off the main stalk first.  This will be the biggest artichoke.  If the main artichoke opens up into a thistle-like flower, the plant will think its mission is accomplished and stop producing fruit.  However, by cutting it off before the flower stage, it encourages the plant to produce side-shoots with more artichokes.

I don't want to be a buzz-kill here as artichokes *are* delicious, but if you're going to grow them, there is something you should know.  Earwigs like them as much as we do.  It's just one of those facts of nature you need to accept if you're going to get your veggies from the ground rather than the supermarket.  After you pick your artichoke (by slicing it off the plant), you will want to hold it tight, then flick it vigorously toward the ground in an attempt to dislodge all the earwigs.  I'm not gonna lie, it's kind of gross.  Just try not to look at them and think of it as gardening exercise... and-a one!  and-a two!  Once you get the chokes inside you can also soak them in water to further clean them up, but if you were diligent in your flicking (I probably flicked over 10 times per choke) they should be earwig-free by that point.

I have yet to try to implement an Earwig Eradication Effort, but I think I just might.  Most of the little artichokes are still small and less likely to harbor the little rascals.  There are two methods I am interested in attempting - (1) beer traps and (2) rolled damp newspapers.  With method (1) you put a saucer/empty tuna can/small container of beer out in the garden at night.  In the morning you return and dispose of the dead earwigs, rinse and repeat.  With method (2), in the evening you put out rolled damp newspaper near the garden.  Again, return in the morning, wad up the newspapers and discard; repeat that night.  I'll start with the beer and will report back on the successes or failures of the method.

Stay tuned next week when I will be passing along my so-far favorite way to enjoy artichokes.  It is super delicious and not too labor intensive, promise!

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