Wild Things Farm

  (Crab Orchard, Tennessee)
Farm life adventures of the Happy Hoer
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The Quest for the Homegrown Artichoke

Each year I add new veggies to the crop cornucopia here on the farm, and one of the newbies this season is artichokes.  I remember the first time I ever ate an artichoke--that was an experience!  First off, it looked like a monster-size of something I surely would have pulled out of the garden weeks before.......

Okay, boil it for 20 minutes and then what?  Pull the leaves off and scrape the end of it with your teeth?  Hmmmmm, tastes great, but not filling.  With the leaves all gone, my next question was "is that all?"  Oh no, now you pull it apart, BE SURE to scrape all the nasty-tasting hairs out, then savor the heart of this member of the thistle family.....ooooh, savor I did!

Never thought they would grow in Tennessee, but while perusing the mountains of seed catalogs I receive each year, I came across a variety that is bred to be grown as an annual.  In the warmer areas of the country where artichokes are grown commercially, they are grown as perennials or biennials, but they won't withstand our temperatures around here. 

Anyway, in the Johnny's Selected Seeds catalog I saw "Imperial Star" artichoke seeds.  The info on the packet is that they will mature in 85 days and the narrative in the catalog suggests that they can be grown in most any part of the country, with a little extra care. 

Yesterday a spot on the propagation mat came open so I sowed 2 packets of seed into 1 flat.  Each packet contains "a minimum of 50 seeds", and actually there were 57 seeds in each pack :)  The seeds look like shelled sunflower seeds, and the whole time I was meticulously placing the seeds in the neat little rows in the flat I was thinking to myself that I bet mice sure would love to eat these seeds.......

The next morning, sure enough, there were a few telltale holes in the soil mix, but they didn't get too many---glad there were 57 seeds in each pack!

Yet another use for duct tape:

I took a flat with smaller holes in the bottom of it, flipped it upside down over the flat of vulnerable artichoke seeds, duct-taped it securely, and voila!  Mouse-proof seedling tray.

The saga goes on though.....seed packet instructs that artichoke seeds germinate best under alternating temperatures; huh?  8 hours at 80-85 degrees, then 16 hours at 68-75 degrees.  Okay, I'm doing my best, but I'm beginning to understand why they cost $2.00 each at the store.

As soon as anything exciting happens, the next article in the series will appear on the blog......meanwhile, I think it's time to go adjust the thermostat on the propagation mat (jk)!

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