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Cynara scolymus - L.
Common Name Family Synonyms
Globe Artichoke Asteraceae or Compositae This name is a synonym of Cynara cardunculus subsp. flavescens Wiklund.

Known Hazards

Can cause allergic reactions (dermatitis) due to lactones. [301]. Use with caution in cases of biliary obstruction. May hinder breast feeding (lactation) [301]. Not known in the wild. Not known in the wild, it probably arose from a form of C. cardunculus.

Habitats Range

Edibility Rating

Medicinal Rating


Summary Physical Characteristics

Cynara scolymus is a PERENNIAL growing to 1.5 m (5ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in). It is hardy to zone 6 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Aug to September, and the seeds ripen from Sep to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, lepidoptera.It is noted for attracting wildlife. Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in saline soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Flowers; Leaves; Stem. Edible Uses: Curdling agent. Flower buds - raw or cooked[2, 7, 15, 16, 27, 37, 183]. Used before the flowers open[171]. The flavour is mild and pleasant[K]. Gobe artichokes are considered to be a gourmet food but they are very fiddly to eat. The buds are harvested just before the flowers open, they are then usually boiled before being eaten. Only the base of each bract is eaten, plus the 'heart' or base that the petals grow from [K]. Small, or baby artichokes, that are produced on lateral stems can be pickled or used in soups and stews[183]. Plants yield about 5 to 6 main heads per year from their second year onwards[200]. Flowering stems - peeled and eaten raw or cooked. A sweet nutty flavour[183]. Young leaf stems - a celery substitute[200]. They are normally blanched to remove the bitterness and then boiled or eaten raw[183]. We find them too bitter to be enjoyable[K]. Leaves - cooked. A bitter flavour[15, 61]. The dried flowers are a rennet substitute, used for curdling plant milks[4, 183].

Medicinal Uses
Plants For A Future can not take any responsib ility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional b efore using a plant medicinally. Anticholesterolemic; Antirheumatic; Appetizer; Cholagogue; Digestive; Diuretic; Hypoglycaemic; Lithontripic. The globe artichoke has become important as a medicinal herb in recent years following the discovery of cynarin. This bitter-tasting compound, which is found in the leaves, improves liver and gall bladder function, stimulates the secretion of digestive juices, especially bile, and lowers blood cholesterol levels[238, 254]. The leaves are anticholesterolemic, antirheumatic, cholagogue, digestive, diuretic, hypoglycaemic and lithontripic[7, 21, 165]. They are used internally in the treatment of chronic liver and gall bladder diseases, jaundice, hepatitis, arteriosclerosis and the early stages of late-onset diabetes[238, 254]. The leaves are best harvested just before the plant flowers, and can be used fresh or dried[238]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Cynara scolymus (Cynara cardunculus subsp. flavescens)for liver and gallbladder complaints, loss of appetite (see [302] for critics of commission E).

Other Uses
Dye. A dark grey dye is obtained from the leaves[7].

Cultivation details
Prefers a light warm soil and an open position in full sun[15, 16, 33, 37]. Requires plenty of moisture in the growing season and a good rich soil[200]. Prefers a sheltered position[200] but plants are reasonably wind resistant[K]. Plants are tolerant of saline conditions[4]. Plants succeed in cool climates though they may need protection in cold winters[200], they are unlikely to thrive in the north of Britain. Wet winters are far more likely to cause problems than cold ones[4, K]. The globe artichoke is often cultivated in the garden and sometimes commercially for its edible flower buds, there are some named varieties[183, 200]. It is best to renew the plants by division of the suckers every 3 years but they do live for a number of years[200]. The plant has recently been reclassified (1999) as not having specific status but being part of C. cardunculus. However, since it is distinct enough from the gardener's viewpoint (having a much larger seedhead) we have decided to leave it with its own entry for the time being[K]. Plants seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits[233]. The flowering plant is a magnet for bees[108].

Seed - sow early spring in a greenhouse. Germination is usually quick and good, prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant them out into their permanent positions during the summer. It would be prudent to give the plants some winter protection in their first year. The seed can also be sown in situ in April. Sow the seed 2cm deep, putting 2 or 3 seeds at each point that you want a plant[1]. Protect the seed from mice[1]. Division of suckers. This is best done in November and the suckers overwintered in a cold frame then planted out in April. Division can also be carried out in March/April with the divisions being planted out straight into their permanent positions, though the plants will be smaller in their first year.

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Botanical References

Links / References
[K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips. [1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]). [2]Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World. Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references. [4]Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants. [7]Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants. Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs. [15]Bryan. J. and Castle. C. Edible Ornamental Garden. A small book with interesting ideas for edible plants in the ornamental garden. [16]Simons. New Vegetable Growers Handbook. A good guide to growing vegetables in temperate areas, not entirely organic. [21]Lust. J. The Herb Book. Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book. [27]Vilmorin. A. The Vegetable Garden. A reprint of a nineteenth century classic, giving details of vegetable varieties. Not really that informative though. [33]Organ. J. Rare Vegetables for Garden and Table.

Unusual vegetables that can be grown outdoors in Britain. A good guide. [37]Thompson. B. The Gardener's Assistant. Excellent general but extensive guide to gardening practices in the 19th century. A very good section on fruits and vegetables with many little known species. [61]Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader. [108]International Bee Research Association. Garden Plants Valuable to Bees. The title says it all. [165]Mills. S. Y. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism. An excellent small herbal. [171]Hill. A. F. Economic Botany. Not very comprehensive, but it is quite readable and goes into some a bit of detail about the plants it does cover. [183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world. [200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed. [233]Thomas. G. S. Perennial Garden Plants A concise guide to a wide range of perennials. Lots of cultivation guides, very little on plant uses. [238]Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant. [254]Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world. [301]Karalliedde. L. and Gawarammana. I. Traditional Herbal Medicines A guide to the safer use of herbal medicines.

Readers comment
Elizabeth H. Peter Crossley Wed Jun 22 15:42:24 2005 Congratulations on a most excellent entry. This is the first time I have come across your database but it is of a high quality. Elizabeth H. jonthan lock Wed Nov 5 2008 i had my front garden done by professionals, i want to keep it nice but i do not know too much about the plants. i have three cynaras the head are flling of and the leaves are very limp. should i leave them or do i have to cut them back?

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