When Do I Harvest My Artichokes?

Planting any kind of vegetable or crop is truly rewarding.  Take artichokes for instance.  You seed them, take care of them and watch them grow.  And now that you see them all tall and leafy, you wonder, when do you get to harvest?

Usually, artichoke harvest begins late in July and continues until the beginnings of frost.  For perennial artichokes planted in the fall, you may begin harvesting as early as spring.  It goes on until the following spring and only gets interrupted by frost.

Annual artichokes that have been planted in spring will be harvested in the fall.  Take note though, that usually, no large flower heads are produced during the artichoke’s first year – if there’s any to harvest at all.

You will know it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor when the buds reach their full size – right before the bracts or petals begin to open and they are still deep green in color.

You will also know when you have missed the harvest when the artichoke buds begin spreading out and start turning purple.  At this stage, they are inedible and must be left alone to fully bloom and become a decorative piece in your garden instead.

Observe your artichoke plant.  You will notice that it has a large thistle-like head at the ends of the stems, plus a number of smaller heads on the lateral shoots.  The main head is known as the “king head” and it’s what you should cut first.

Handle the bud carefully, taking care not to bruise the bud leaves.  Cut from the stem an inch to an inch and a half below the base of the flower bud.  Secondary growths will develop later on, producing another flower head that’s the size of a cricket ball.

Each artichoke plant can produce several flower stalks with each stalk producing as many as five buds.