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Cultivation of artichokes
The artichoke is a perennial plant that belongs to the Compositae family. It is native to the Mediterranean basin, cultivated in Italy for edible purposes as a vegetable since the Middle Ages and is used both in nutrition and in herbal medicine for its beneficial properties against liver disease. The artichoke is a cespitose plant provided with a rhizomatous root, with an erect stem of green color; the alternate leaves are green on the upper side and white on the lower one. Known and appreciated as a vegetable since ancient Roman times, it is produced in two varieties; thorny and not thorny. The species of wild artichoke instead grows spontaneously in the Italian islands and in the southern regions. In full growth, the plant extends and covers an area of about six meters in diameter and reaches a height of three or four meters. The "green" we eat is actually the flower bud of the plant. The artichoke in fact knows no pauses for the purposes of production, therefore, it is available twelve months a year with the greatest production in spring and autumn. There are more than 140 varieties of artichoke but less than 40 are commercially grown. Today, in most parts of the world, artichokes grown in France, Italy and Spain are consumed, while California supplies almost 100% of the crop to the United States.
The artichoke is grown in medium-textured soils, worked in depth and well fertilized; gives a good product and can be grown both in clay-limestone soils, and in peaty and acid soils. Carducci is the name given to the buds born at the foot of the adult plant; harvested from the healthiest and best-formed plants they are freed from the buds that they themselves present at the base, then cimed at the apex of the leaves and are planted in spring to have an autumn-winter production (if they are re-flowering varieties) or planted in autumn (in the case of non-flowering varieties) to have a spring reproduction. After having planted the carducci it is advisable to carry out frequent irrigations and some fertilization with fertilizers preferably based on nitrogen. Roman artichokes and artichokes from Chioggia give a late production (March-April); in fact, in summer we prune the soil and remove young suckers from the adult plant leaving only one, which goes back into the vegetation. Finally you will have to proceed to dig all around the plant and fertilize abundantly, then it tucks up, thus completing the autumn operations.
Since adult plants can reach 4-5 meters in height and thrive in full sun in partial shade, they therefore need light. To prepare the soil you have to work it with about twelve centimeters of compound soil, digging at a depth of about eight centimeters. There are two reasons why the artichoke plants do not give results: the first is the summer drought while the second is the winter frost much more risky because, the excessive quantity of rainwater or melted ice make the soil excessively damp and in both cases the artichokes tend to rot. The addition of draining material such as heather earth or flake peat improves the soil's ability to retain water both in summer and winter, making the soil more permeable. When the plant reaches its best point for development purposes, it is advisable approximately every two weeks to encourage the buds to flower with potassium-based fertilizers, eliminate weeds and add a mixture of manure and decomposed leaves. This prevention operation is fundamental as the artichoke is constantly at risk of being attacked by a very dangerous parasite called "agromyza andalusiaca" called artichoke fly.
As is known, the artichoke is an excellent remedy for disorders caused by malfunctioning of the liver. Decoctions are made by boiling dried leaves in water and drinking them at least three times a day. The medicinal wine is also very effective, which is obtained by mixing the leaves left in infusion for a week with a normal white wine. After this period they are filtered with a colander, squeezed and the liquid obtained is stored in a bottle. It is sufficient to consume a small glass at each main meal. Among the various species of artichoke one in particular is cultivated called “cynara cardunculus altilis which belongs to the same family as the artichoke, but in reality it is a thistle and it is very appreciated as a vegetable and belongs to the category of thorny and not thorny. This cultivation also takes place in Italy and sowing is done in small pots or in terrines to develop seedlings to be planted in the garden. Also in this case nitrogen-based fertilizers are used, regular hoeing of land and abundant watering. The edible part of all the artichokes is actually the one that produces more flowers even if the terminal part of the stem, also edible, has for the plant the function of aspirating the liquid of the soil. Finally, if the artichoke is not harvested for manipulation in medical or food uses, we will note that at the top of each individual vegetable, purple colored bush-like inflorescences will appear, which become, in spite of everything, similar to a rather particular flower.