Artichokes are not typically part of your Easter feast, but they are ripe for harvest at the UF/IFAS Hastings Agriculture Extension Center. “Green Queen”, “Imperial Star”, and “Green Globe” are on the menu for folks affiliated with the Center. Artichokes were planted on November 13, 2020 and the harvest started four months later on March 15, 2021. We harvest marketable globes (i.e. greater than 2.75″ in diameter) on a weekly basis and we are currently in our fifth harvest pass. They were initially transplanted in long rows of plastic mulch and fertigated (i.e. fertilized and irrigated) using drip lines under the plastic. This is a very unique crop for the Tri-County Agriculture area since most of the current commercial production is in California. However, with the help of some freezing temperatures and an added plant hormone called gibberellic acid, these hearty chokes are budding like crazy this year. While commodity prices were approximately $40 a box in California in early March, some of the local restaurants and vegetable stands received the produce for free just to feel the pulse of the Florida market. The artichokes sold out quickly and customers didn’t hesitate to pay $1.00 a piece.
Artichokes are prickly and thorny on the outside but smooth and soft on the inside. Preparing them for a feast may prove to be a bit tedious as it requires peeling the outer scaly leaves and separating the hairy fibers from the heart. The hearts can be chopped up and mixed with mayonnaise, garlic, lemon and parmesan cheese and baked in the form of a dip, or they can be baked whole with preferred toppings or flavoring. In keeping with the Easter theme, one could get creative and add roasted artichoke hearts to their deviled egg mixture. You could even throw in a finely diced datil pepper to spice it up a bit and keep a local fare. If you’re not a fan of the taste, you could always add them to the centerpiece bouquet as a bulb or wait a few weeks and add them as a fully open flower. We plan to have plenty of artichokes in full bloom that we are not harvesting just for the display of the amazing purple flowers that will cover the field. The versatility of artichokes is quite remarkable.
They also caught the attention of several farmers from the Tri-County Agriculture Area who have come out to visit the research plots. JJ Tilton and his son Jared helped with the 3rd harvest pass just to get a closer look at each of the three featured varieties in the trial. They intend to grow a few acres of artichokes this fall. “Green Queen” is leading the pack this year with “Imperial Star” not too far behind after the third week of harvest. I appreciate the hard work of the Hastings staff to keep these buds supported with nutrition and water for such a long duration of time as this is much lengthier crop that the typical 95-day potato season. Extra hands for harvesting activities have also been much appreciated. During our fifth harvest pass, two Flagler County Master Gardeners (Mary Clemons and Liz Rourke who took the amazing picture in the header of this blog) put on their mud boots and offered a helping hand in the harvest. Interested growers should contact their respective UF/IFAS Agriculture County Agent (firstname.lastname@example.org for Putnam & Flagler; email@example.com for St. Johns) to organize a tour of the artichoke trial in Hastings and learn more about this versatile veggie.