17 Varieties of Artichoke Plants (With Pictures)

Artichoke plants, scientifically known as Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus, are a type of thistle that belongs to the Asteraceae family. They are commonly consumed as a vegetable. The edible portion of the plant consists of the flower buds before the flowers come into bloom.

Artichokes are native to the Mediterranean region and are believed by experts to be a descendant of a wild cardoon, a thistle-like plant consumed as a delicacy in the Ancient Greek and Roman Empires. Artichokes were carried to the United States through French and Spanish immigrants in the 19th century and were planted throughout Louisiana and coastal California.

Today, Artichokes are cultivated in California of the United States, in South America, mainly in Peru and Argentina, Australia, and Africa. There are over 140 varieties of artichokes found worldwide, with approximately 40 varieties grown commercially. 

Artichokes grow best in mild, frost-free climates and prefer full sun and well-drained soil. They can be grown as perennials in zones 7-11, while in colder climates, they can be grown as annuals or overwintered indoors. The plants are large, reaching up to 4-6 feet in height. They have lobed, silvery-green leaves that can grow up to 3 feet long.

Artichoke plants produce large, edible flower buds that are harvested before they bloom. The buds consist of tightly packed, fleshy scales or bracts, which surround a central, fuzzy choke (the immature flower) and a tender heart.

Artichoke heads average 8 to 15 centimeters in diameter and can be dense and tapered, filled with layers of bracts, or they can look more of a flower, appearing somehow open-loose but still compact layers. The heads are usually solid green, purple or can be variegated green with purple accents, depending on the variety. Each bract has a fleshy, edible base and a faintly curved nature.

Artichokes can be steamed, boiled, grilled or roasted. When they are small and young, they can be consumed raw in appetizer dishes or tossed into salads.  Each bract can be removed individually by hand, and the fleshy bottom can be dipped in sauces such as mayonnaise, balsamic vinegar, hollandaise, butter, olive oil, aioli, or fresh lemon juice and consumed in one bite.

Artichokes pair well with meats including lamb, poultry, beef, and turkey, spices such as allspice, black pepper, and garlic, herbs including parsley, dill, and mint, white wine, mushrooms, carrots, celery, and potatoes. Artichoke plants are rich in nutrients, including fiber, vitamins C and K, and antioxidants. They are also a good source of folate, magnesium, and potassium.

Although most gardeners think of artichokes as food, if left unharvested, artichoke buds form large pink or purple thistle-like flowers that are usually attractive to bees and other pollinators. If the flowers remain on the plant, they produce seeds. 

Artichokes are usually harvested when the heads are still tight and compact, that is before the flower bud starts to open. Once the scales begin to separate and open up, the artichoke becomes tougher and less flavorful.

List of Artichoke Plant Varieties

  • Green Globe artichokes
  • Omaha artichokes
  • Peruvian artichokes
  • Cocktail artichokes
  • Fiore Viola artichokes
  • Purple Long Stem artichokes
  • Baby Purple (Fiesole) Artichokes
  • Sangria artichokes
  • Lyon artichokes 
  • Spinoso di Menfi artichokes
  • Tinian artichokes
  • Siena Artichoke
  • Imperial Star Artichoke
  • Big Heart artichokes
  • Desert Globe artichokes
  • Sardinian Artichokes
  • Chianti artichokes

Description And Pictures

Green Globe Artichokes

Green Globe artichokes also referred to as French artichokes. The unopened flower buds have large, round heads with thick, fleshy scales that are packed together. The outer leaves are usually green with some yellowish tinge, while the inner leaves are softer and lighter green.

Omaha artichokes

The heads has a bright green base covered in a dark purple, violet, to burgundy overlay. As each layer is peeled away, the color of the bracts transforms from variegated to green or pale yellow, and the bracts grow smaller and smaller towards the interior, revealing a central heart surrounded by immature florets known as the choke.

Peruvian artichokes

Peruvian artichokes also known as Criolla Globe artichokes and Spine artichokes, have a globular shape and consist of many layers of triangular, pointed bracts. As each layer is peeled away, the color of the bracts transforms from green to yellow-purple, and each bract grows smaller and smaller towards the interior.

Cocktail artichokes

Cocktail artichokes are small and can be round or conical in shape. The outer bracts are dark green, tough, and fibrous, and some leaves may contain small thorns. They have softer leaves and can be consumed raw. Cocktail artichokes are unique as they don’t contain the inedible choke that is present in larger varieties. 

Fiore Viola artichokes

Fiore Viola artichokes are native to California and were developed by Steve Jordan. They are generally round in appearance. Heads are comprised of tightly-packed, fleshy leaves that form in overlapping layers. They are known for their green base coloring, almost entirely enveloped in pigmented shades of dark purple. As the outer bracts are removed, the coloring will also lighten, transitioning into pale green, yellow, to white hues.

Baby Purple (Fiesole) Artichokes

Fiesole artichokes were one of the most notable Baby Purple artichokes developed in California in the early 21st century. The heads are generally have a round to somehow elongated. These artichokes have a dark purple, maroon, to wine-like coloring and might also feature variegated hues of purple and green. The head has overlapping layers of fleshy leaves that form around a central base. The bracts are smooth, pliable, and thin, bearing sharp spines at the top.

Long Stem artichokes

Long Stem artichokes, also known as “Romanesco” or “Catanese” artichokes. Usually feature long, slender stems and large, elongated heads. Usually, cultivated in regions such as Sicily, Italy. Generally, they have heads that can be greenish-purple or deep purple.

Sangria artichokes

Sangria artichokes, also known as “Sangria Red” artichokes are a unique variety featuring deep red or burgundy-colored leaves. There are usually patches of bright green at the base of the heads,  When cooked, Sangria artichokes will develop a tender, succulent consistency.

Lyon artichokes

Lyon artichokes are also known as “Gros Vert de Laon,”. They are believed to be related to an heirloom variety native to France. The heads of Lyon artichokes are usually green with hints of purple. They are typically harvested when they are still young and tender.

Spinoso di Menfi artichokes

Spinoso di Menfi artichokes are also referred as “Spinoso Menfi,”. They are primarily in the Menfi region of Sicily, Italy. These artichokes are named “Spinoso” due to the spiny nature of their leaves. The outer leaves of this artichokes are tightly packed and have pointed tips. They usually have a green base coloring but are sometimes almost entirely enveloped in pigmented shades of dark purple. 

Tinian artichokes

Tinian artichokes, also known as “Tinian Green” artichokes, are a unique variety of artichoke native to Tinos Island in Greece and are one of the most traditional crops of the island. Among Tinian locals, the variety is nicknamed “the Porsche of artichokes.”They are smaller in size compared to some other varieties.

Siena Artichoke

Siena Artichoke are a variety that is grown and cultivated in the region of Siena, Italy. Siena is a province in the Tuscany region. Usually available from late winter to early spring.

The “Imperial Star” artichoke

The “Imperial Star” artichoke is a hybrid variety developed by seed breeders. They have a relatively early maturity and high-yield compared to other varieties. Unlike other varieties, they are thornless or sometimes have minimal thorns. This variety produce large, uniform heads with a consistent shape and size.

Big Heart artichokes

Big Heart artichokes are a hybrid variety developed in the mid-1980s by a California seed breeder, Rusty Jordan. It is endowed with a large, fleshy base and weighs in at over a pound. The head can be with diameters of 4-6 inches or more. The petals or leaves are thick and fleshy, with a slightly serrated edge.

Desert Globe artichokes

Desert Globe artichokes are a hybrid variety bred specifically to grow in desert-like conditions. They are able to withstand high temperatures, drought, and sandy soil. Similar to other globe artichokes, Desert Globe artichokes usually have large, rounded heads.

Sardinian artichokes

Sardinian artichokes, also known as “Carciofi Sardi” in Italian are cultivated in the Italian island region of Sardinia. Sardinia. Their conical, elongated heads bear the most vicious of yellow-red spines on both their bracts and leaves.  The yield for this variety is lower than for other cultivars.  

Chianti artichokes, also known as “Carciofi del Chianti” are a variety from Chianti region of Tuscany, Italy. They have a round to oval shape, with overlapping leaves that form a compact globe. The outer leaves may have a slight curvature. They are usually green in color, with occasional purple or red accents near the base of the leaves. The stem are short and thick, attached to the base of the artichoke head. When cooked properly, they have a buttery texture and a delicate bite.

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