I don’t grow artichokes for food, but for the flowers. This is because ecologist/gardener Jim Nollman, whose books I admire, wrote that he considers the artichoke one of, if not the , most beautiful flower in the world.


The artichoke is one of the oldest cultivated vegetables, beloved of Greeks and Romans and thought by the 17th-century astrologer/physician Nicolas Culpepper to provoke lust. (Making a meal of tomatoes and artichokes might seem Spartan, but it has its rewards.)

Artichoke is a thistle and those, of course, attract birds. So there’s every reason to give them garden space. I originally planted six trial plants.

artichoke about to flower

My daughter doesn’t see “flower” when she looks at an artichoke–she sees lunch.

I’m in the kitchen, puttering. My daughter trots by juggling three fine, fat artichokes.

“My flowers!” I shriek. “The most beautiful flowers in the world! What have you done?”

“They’re artichokes, Mom,” she replies calmly, reasonably, filling a pot with water and switching on the stove. “They’re a little old. We’d better get right on them.”

I explain, with just the slightest edge to my voice, that I wasn’t planning to harvest them. I was waiting to see what they look like as flowers, because I’d read that they are the Most Beautiful Flowers in the World.

She whips butter with lemon and a touch of garlic. “You’ve got three left, Mom. Come on. Dig in.”

artichoke cooked

Allowed to flower, globe artichokes return for several years before needing to be replanted.