Globe artichoke plants produce a stunning display of flowers in summer, with long and thin blue, mauve, or purple petals that capture the sunlight and are loved by bees and other beneficial insects.
The display of flowers is reason enough to have a globe artichoke plant, or two, in a garden or allotment, but the flower buds are also edible (you may like to see this fried artichoke recipe). The flower buds taste best when young at golf ball size or just a little larger.
Globe artichokes are a perennial plant that will provide a harvest for several years. It is possible to divide the plants in winter, and this is worth doing every three years as the buds of older plants lose some of their flavour. Globe artichokes can be grown from seed, but it is easier and more reliable to buy young plants in pots.
The plants grow tall, and if windy weather is forecast, it is advisable to stake them. The plants are pretty tolerant of most soil types, but they will benefit from well drained soil. In heavy soil, dig a good size planting hole and incorporate organic matter to help improve drainage.
When preparing for cooking, the flesh of fresh artichokes blackens if exposed to air after cutting (the same way the flesh of apples can turn brown), and therefore it is best to cut the artichokes just before you cook them.