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Brief Summary

Cynara scolymus is a member of the Asteraceae (also known as Compositae) family, the largest family of flowering plants in the world. Its stem can grow to a height of about 6 feet (2 meters) tall, dividing in branches that bear flowers at their apex. These lateral branches spread in a radial fashion around the stem up to three feet (1 meter). It produces a large, violet-green flower head which can reach 6 inches (15 cm) in size, and look very similar to those of thistles. When mature, these flower petals and fleshy flower bottoms - referred to as globe artichokes - are eaten as a vegetable throughout the world, which has led to its commercial cultivation in many parts of South and North America (chiefly California, USDA Zones 8a to 9b) as well as in Europe. It also grows wild in southern Europe.
The artichoke was used as a food and medicine by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans; in Rome, the artichoke was an important menu item at feasts. It wasn't until the fifteenth century, however, that it made its appearance throughout Europe.
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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Acanthiophilus helianthi feeds within capitulum of Cynara scolymus

In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / feeds on
Ascochyta coelomycetous anamorph of Ascochyta cynarae feeds on l Cynara scolymus

Foodplant / parasite
sporangium of Bremia lactucae parasitises live leaf of Cynara scolymus
Remarks: season: 9-10
Other: unusual host/prey

Foodplant / feeds on
larva of Cheilosia vulpina feeds on root of Cynara scolymus

Foodplant / parasite
cleistothecium of Leveillula taurica parasitises Cynara scolymus
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / spot causer
amphigenous colony of Ramularia hyphomycetous anamorph of Ramularia cynarae causes spots on live leaf of Cynara scolymus


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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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This article is about the globe artichoke. For other uses, see Artichoke (disambiguation).

The globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus)[1] is a variety of a species of thistle cultivated as a food. The edible portion of the plant consists of the flower buds before the flowers come into bloom. The budding artichoke flower-head is a cluster of many budding small flowers (an inflorescence) together with many bracts, on an edible base. Once the buds bloom the structure changes to a coarse, barely edible form. Another variety of the species is the cardoon. It is a perennial plant native to the Mediterranean region. Both wild forms and cultivated varieties (cultivars) exist.

Description of the plant[edit]

It grows to 1.4–2 m (4.6–6.6 ft) tall, with arching, deeply lobed, silvery, glaucous-green leaves 50–82 cm (20–32 in) long. The flowers develop in a large head from an edible bud about 8–15 cm (3.1–5.9 in) diameter with numerous triangular scales; the individual florets are purple. The edible portions of the buds consist primarily of the fleshy lower portions of the involucral bracts and the base, known as the "heart"; the mass of immature florets in the center of the bud is called the "choke" or beard. These are inedible in older, larger flowers.

Early history of use[edit]

The naturally occurring variant of the artichoke, the cardoon (Cynara cardunculus), which is native to the Mediterranean area,[1] has records of use as a food among the ancient Greeks and Romans. In North Africa, where they are still found in the wild state, the seeds of artichokes, probably cultivated, were found during the excavation of Roman-period Mons Claudianus in Egypt.[2] Varieties of artichokes were cultivated in Sicily since the classical period of the ancient Greeks, the Greeks calling them kaktos. In that period the Greeks ate the leaves and flower heads, which cultivation had already improved from the wild form. The Romans called the vegetable carduus (whence the name cardoon). Globe artichokes are known to have been cultivated at Naples around the middle of the 9th century.[citation needed] Further improvement in the cultivated form appears to have taken place in the medieval period in Muslim Spain and the Maghreb, although the evidence is inferential only.[3] Names for the artichoke in many European languages today come from medieval Arabic الخرشوف al-khurshūf via late medieval Spain (where it is nowadays alcachofa).[4]

Le Roy Ladurie, in his book Les Paysans de Languedoc, has documented the spread of artichoke cultivation in Italy and southern France in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, when the artichoke appears as a new arrival with a new name, which may be taken to indicate an arrival of an improved cultivated variety:

The blossom of the thistle, improved by the Arabs, passed from Naples to Florence in 1466, carried by Filippo Strozzi. Towards 1480 it is noticed in Venice, as a curiosity. But very soon veers towards the northwest...Artichoke beds are mentioned in Avignon by the notaries from 1532 onward; from the principle [sic] towns they spread into the hinterlands ... appearing as carchofas at Cavaillon in 1541, at Chateauneuf du Pape in 1553, at Orange in 1554. The local name remains carchofas, from the Italian carciofo ... They are very small, the size of a hen's egg ... and are still considered a luxury, a vaguely aphrodisiac tidbit that one preserved in sugar syrup.[5]

The Dutch introduced artichokes to England, where they grew in Henry VIII's garden at Newhall in 1530. They were brought to the United States in the 19th century, to Louisiana by French immigrants and to California by Spanish immigrants.

Agricultural output[edit]

Artichoke head with flower in bloom

Today, globe artichoke cultivation is concentrated in the countries bordering the Mediterranean basin. The main European producers are Italy, Spain, and France. In the United States, California provides nearly 100% of the U.S. crop, and about 80% of that is grown in Monterey County; there, Castroville proclaims itself to be "The Artichoke Center of the World", and holds the annual Castroville Artichoke Festival. Most recently, artichokes have been grown in South Africa in a small town called Parys located along the Vaal River.

Top 10 artichoke producers in 2012
CountryProduction (tonnes)Footnote
 United States51,300
* = Unofficial figure | [ ] = Official data | A = May include official, semi-official or estimated data
F = FAO estimate | Im = FAO data based on imputation methodology | M = Data not available

Source: UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO)[6]

Artichoke output in 2005

Artichokes can be produced from seeds or from vegetative means such as division, root cuttings or micropropagation. Though technically perennials that normally produce the edible flower only during the second and subsequent years, certain varieties of artichoke can be grown from seed as annuals, producing a limited harvest at the end of the first growing season, even in regions where the plants are not normally winter-hardy. This means home gardeners in northern regions can attempt to produce a crop without the need to overwinter plants with special treatment or protection. The recently introduced seed cultivar 'Imperial Star' has been bred to produce in the first year without such measures. An even newer cultivar, 'Northern Star', is said to be able to overwinter in more northerly climates, and readily survives subzero temperatures.[7]

Commercial culture is limited to warm areas in USDA hardiness zone 7 and above. It requires good soil, regular watering and feeding, plus frost protection in winter. Rooted suckers can be planted each year, so mature specimens can be disposed of after a few years, as each individual plant lives only a few years. The peak season for artichoke harvesting is the spring, but they can continue to be harvested throughout the summer, with another peak period in midautumn.

When harvested, they are cut from the plant so as to leave an inch or two of stem. Artichokes possess good keeping qualities, frequently remaining quite fresh for two weeks or longer under average retail conditions.

Apart from food use, the globe artichoke is also an attractive plant for its bright floral display, sometimes grown in herbaceous borders for its bold foliage and large purple flower heads.


Some varieties of artichoke display purple coloration

Traditional cultivars (vegetative propagation)[edit]

  • Green, big: 'Vert de Laon' (France), 'Camus de Bretagne', 'Castel' (France), 'Green Globe' (USA, South Africa)
  • Green, medium-size: 'Verde Palermo' (Sicily), 'Blanca de Tudela' (Spain), 'Argentina', 'Española' (Chile), 'Blanc d'Oran' (Algeria), 'Sakiz', 'Bayrampasha' (Turkey)
  • Purple, big: 'Romanesco', 'C3' (Italy)
  • Purple, medium-size: 'Violet de Provence' (France), 'Brindisino', 'Catanese', 'Niscemese' (Sicily), 'Violet d'Algerie' (Algeria), 'Baladi' (Egypt), 'Ñato' (Argentina), 'Violetta di Chioggia' (Italy)
  • Spined: 'Spinoso Sardo e Ingauno' (Sardinia), 'Criolla' (Peru).
  • White, in some places of the world.

Cultivars propagated by seeds[edit]

  • For industry: 'Madrigal',[8] 'Lorca', 'A-106', 'Imperial Star'
  • Green: 'Symphony',[8] 'Harmony'[8]
  • Purple: 'Concerto',[8] 'Opal',[8] 'Tempo'[8]


Globe artichokes being cooked


In the US, large globe artichokes are frequently prepared by removing all but 5–10 mm (0.2–0.4 in) or so of the stem. To remove thorns, which may interfere with eating, around a quarter of each scale can be cut off. To cook, the artichoke is boiled or steamed. The core of the stem tastes similar to the artichoke heart, and is edible.

Salt may be added to the water if boiling artichokes. Leaving the pot uncovered may allow acids to boil off. Covered artichokes, in particular those that have been cut, can turn brown due to the enzymatic browning and chlorophyll oxidation. Placing them in water slightly acidified with vinegar or lemon juice can prevent the discoloration.

Leaves are often removed one at a time, and the fleshy base eaten, with hollandaise, vinegar, butter, mayonnaise, aioli, lemon juice, or other sauces. The fibrous upper part of each leaf is usually discarded. The heart is eaten when the inedible choke has been peeled away from the base and discarded. The thin leaves covering the choke are also edible.

Canned, marinated artichoke hearts

In Italy, artichoke hearts in oil are the usual vegetable for 'spring' section of the 'Four Seasons' pizza (with olives for summer, mushrooms for autumn, and prosciutto for winter).[9] A recipe well known in Rome is Jewish-style artichokes, which are deep-fried whole.[10]

Stuffed artichoke recipes are abundant. A common Italian stuffing uses a mixture of bread crumbs, garlic, oregano, parsley, grated cheese, and prosciutto or sausage. A bit of the mixture is then pushed into the spaces at the base of each leaf and into the center before boiling or steaming.[11] A similar recipe is popular in coastal Croatia.[citation needed]

In Spain, the more tender, younger, and smaller artichokes are used. They can be sprinkled with olive oil and left in hot ashes in a barbecue, sauteed in olive oil with garlic, with rice as a paella, or sautéed and combined with eggs in a tortilla (frittata).

Often cited is the Greek, aginares a la polita (artichokes city-style, referring to the city of Constantinople), a hearty, savory stew made with artichoke hearts, potatoes, and carrots, and flavored with onion, lemon, and dill.[12][13] The finest examples are to be found on the island of Tinos, and in Iria and Kantia, two small villages in Argolida in the Peloponnese of southern Greece.[citation needed]

Another way to use artichokes is to completely break off all of the leaves, leaving the bare heart. The leaves are steamed to soften the fleshy base part of each leaf to be used as the basis for any number of side dishes or appetizing dips, or the fleshy part is left attached to the heart, while the upper parts of the leaves are discarded. The remaining concave-shaped heart is often filled with meat, then fried or baked in a savory sauce. Frozen artichoke hearts are a time-saving substitute, though the consistency and stronger flavor of fresh hearts when available is preferred.

Throughout North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey, and Armenia, a favorite filling for stuffed artichoke hearts includes ground lamb. Spices reflect the local cuisine of each country. In Lebanon, for example, the typical filling would include lamb, onion, tomato, pinenuts, raisins, parsley, dill, mint, black pepper, and allspice. A popular Turkish vegetarian variety uses only onion, carrot, green peas, and salt. Artichokes are often prepared with white sauces and other sauces.[14]

A tea bag containing artichoke tea
Artichoke, cooked boiled, salted
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy211 kJ (50 kcal)
11.39 g
Sugars0.99 g
Dietary fiber8.6 g
0.34 g
2.89 g
Vitamin A equiv.
464 μg
Thiamine (B1)
0.05 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.089 mg
Niacin (B3)
1.11 mg
0.24 mg
Vitamin B6
0.081 mg
Folate (B9)
89 μg
Vitamin C
7.4 mg
Vitamin E
0.19 mg
Vitamin K
14.8 μg
Trace metals
21 mg
0.61 mg
42 mg
0.225 mg
73 mg
286 mg
296 mg
0.4 mg

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Herbal tea[edit]

Artichokes can also be made into an herbal tea. "Artichoke tea" is produced as a commercial product in the Da Lat region of Vietnam. The flower portion is put into water and consumed as an herbal tea, called alcachofa in Mexico. It has a slightly bitter woody taste.


Artichoke is the primary flavor of the 33-proof (16.5%-alcohol) Italian liqueur Cynar produced exclusively by the Campari Group. It can be served over ice as an aperitif or as a cocktail mixed with orange juice, especially popular in Switzerland. It is also used to make a 'Cin Cyn', a slightly less-bitter version of the Negroni cocktail, by substituting Cynar in place of Campari.

Medical uses[edit]

The total antioxidant capacity of artichoke flower heads is one of the highest reported for vegetables.[15] Cynarine is a chemical constituent in Cynara. The majority of the cynarine found in artichoke is located in the pulp of the leaves, though dried leaves and stems of artichoke also contain it. It inhibits taste receptors, making water (and other foods and drinks) seem sweet.[16]

Studies have shown artichoke to aid digestion, liver function[citation needed] and gallbladder function, and raise the ratio of HDL to LDL.[17] This reduces cholesterol levels, which diminishes the risk for arteriosclerosis and coronary heart disease.[18] Aqueous extracts from artichoke leaves have also been shown to reduce cholesterol by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase and having a hypolipidemic influence, lowering blood cholesterol.[19] Artichoke contains the bioactive agents apigenin and luteolin.[20] C. scolymus also seems to have a bifidogenic effect on beneficial gut bacteria.[21] Its effect in arresting pathogenic bacteria may be attributed to the notable presence of phenolic compounds. Both are higher in the baby anzio artichoke (Cyrnara scolymus).[22] Artichoke leaf extract has proved helpful for patients with functional dyspepsia,[23] and may ameliorate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.[24][25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rottenberg, A., and D. Zohary, 1996: "The wild ancestry of the cultivated artichoke." Genet. Res. Crop Evol. 43, 53—58.
  2. ^ Vartavan, C. (de) and Asensi Amoros, V. 1997 Codex of Ancient Egyptian Plant Remains. London, Triade Exploration. Page 91
  3. ^ Watson, Andrew. Agricultural innovation in the early Islamic world. Cambridge University Press. p.64
  4. ^ "Artichoke" at American Heritage Dictionary
  5. ^ Quoted in Wheaton, Barbara Ketcham, Savoring the Past, (Touchstone Books, 1983) pages 66-67.
  6. ^ "Major Food And Agricultural Commodities And Producers – Countries By Commodity". Retrieved Feb 2, 2015. 
  7. ^ [1] Peters Seed and Research
  8. ^ a b c d e f [2] Nunhems Vegetable Seeds
  9. ^ "Four Seasons Pizza". Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  10. ^ "Jewish Artichokes". Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  11. ^ "Stuffed Artichokes". Epicurious. Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  12. ^ "Artichokes "City-Style"". Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  13. ^ "Artichokes a la polita". Archived from the original on 15 December 2010. Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  14. ^ Diderot, Denis. "Artichokes". The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Retrieved 1 April 2015. 
  15. ^ Ceccarelli N., Curadi M., Picciarelli P., Martelloni L., Sbrana C., Giovannetti M. "Globe artichoke as a functional food" Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism 2010 3:3 (197-201)
  16. ^ Feifer, Jason (May 2011). "A Matter of Taste". Men's Health 26 (4): 140. 
  17. ^ Qiang, Z.; Lee, S. O.; Ye, Z.; Wu, X.; Hendrich, S. (2012). "Artichoke Extract Lowered Plasma Cholesterol and Increased Fecal Bile Acids in Golden Syrian Hamsters". Phytotherapy Research 26 (7): 1048–1052. doi:10.1002/ptr.3698. PMID 22183827.  edit
  18. ^ Englisch, W; Beckers, C; Unkauf, M; Ruepp, M; Zinserling, V (2000). "Efficacy of Artichoke dry extract in patients with hyperlipoproteinemia". Arzneimittel-Forschung 50 (3): 260–5. doi:10.1055/s-0031-1300196. PMID 10758778. 
  19. ^ Inhibition of Cholesterol Biosynthesis in Primary Cultured Rat Hepatocytes by Artichoke (Cynara scolymus L.) Extracts
  20. ^ Cesar G. Fraga. Plant Phenolics and Human Health– Biochemistry, Nutrition and Pharmacology. Wiley. p.9
  21. ^ Costabile A, Kolida S, Klinder A, Gietl E, Bäuerlein M, Frohberg C, Landschütze V, Gibson GR "A double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study to establish the 'bifidogenic' effect of a very-long-chain inulin extracted from globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus) in healthy human subjects." Br J Nutr. 2010 Oct;104(7):1007-17. doi:10.1017/S0007114510001571
  22. ^ El Sohaimy, Sobhy A. (2014). "Chemical Composition, Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Potential of Artichoke". The Open Nutraceuticals Journal (Bentham Science Publishers) (7): 15–20. ISSN 1876-3960. 
  23. ^ Holtmann G., Adam B., Haag S., Collet W., Grünewald E., Windeck T.,"Efficacy of artichoke leaf extract in the treatment of patients with functional dyspepsia: A six-week placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicentre trial." Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics 2003 18:11-12 (1099-1105)
  24. ^ Bundy R., Walker A.F., Middleton R.W., Marakis G., Booth J.C.L. "Artichoke leaf extract reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and improves quality of life in otherwise healthy volunteers suffering from concomitant dyspepsia: A subset analysis" Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2004 10:4 (667-669)
  25. ^ Walker A.F., Middleton R.W., Petrowicz O. "Artichoke leaf extract reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome in a post-marketing surveillance study" Phytotherapy Research 2001 15:1 (58-61)

Rezazadeh, A., Ghasemnezhad, A., Barani, M., & Telmadarrehei, T. (2012). Effect of Salinity on Phenolic Composition and Antioxidant Activity of Artichoke (Cynara scolymus L.) Leaves. Research Journal of Medicinal Plant, 6(3).

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