- Author: Betty Homer
'I am a self-described lazy gardener who is always looking for edible plants which require little work but yield a delicious and fruitful harvest. Beauty is a welcomed bonus. One such variety of plant that I am growing is the artichoke, which grows quite well in Solano County, even though artichokes are usually found growing close to the coast (e.g., Monterey County). I currently grow 4 varieties of artichokes—the prolific 'Green Globe' which is commonly found in supermarkets, a beautiful, new-ish purplish variety called 'Opera', a smaller, Italian variety dating back hundreds of years known as 'Violetta Precoce', and the one that is the subject of this blog entry--Artichoke 'Carciofo Romanesco' aka the Artichoke of Rome.
I first became intrigued with 'Carciofo Romanesco' after I had learned that it had been in cultivation since the year 1400. It does not get much more sustainable than that. Think--the plant that could be in your garden, is the same one that someone else was cultivating approximately 615 years ago and that both of you are tasting the fruit fo the exact same plant! Remarkable--talk about living history.
From a practical standpoint, 'Carciofo Romanesco' is great in that unlike other varieties of artichokes (e.g., the other three types I grow) 'Carciofo Romanesco' is thorn-free. It is equally delicious as other artichokes and contains a large, nutty flavored “heart” that is "fuzz-free." Also, like other artichokes, 'Carciofo Romanesco' is a perennial which comes back each year to produce a reliable harvest of food.
'Carciofo Romanesco' is also handsome plant to look at, with silverish-green leaves and large globe-like buds streaked with purple. It is a plant that can be incorporated into flower beds to provide as a backdrop or to be at the center of attention. Also, the artichoke bud, which is the flower of the plant, is a huge attraction for our beleaguered bee population which can always use more help.
Artichokes are easy plants to grow in Solano County, but beware they do get big. Really big. As such, you should set aside a space where you have at least 3' in circumference, in an unsheltered, sunny spot with rich soil. Once the plant is established (beware that slugs and snails love devouring young artichoke plants--just pick them off), like other artichokes, 'Carciofo Romanesco' requires little up-keep.
For places to purchase 'Carciofo Romanesco', your best bet may be looking on-line for a source. Locally, I purchased my 'Carciofo Romanesco' from Annie's Annuals in Richmond, California.