Choked Up

Spring sunrises at Coppertop have been gorgeous. Our bedroom windows face northeast over the Strait of Juan de Fuca and to Mt. Baker. Before 6:00 am we’re treated to this display. IMG_4507

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Last summer at area garden tours I saw how artichokes, Cynara scolymus, can grow successfully here on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. These perennial vegetables from the Asteraceae family are ones I’ve wanted to try my hand at growing for quite a while now. The new raised bed by the chicken mansion had plenty of empty space, so I got busy seeding some artichokes in the greenhouse. Then my impatience reared and I purchased a few young artichoke plants. IMG_4444

I selected the Green Globe and Purple Romanesco varieties. As they grow I’ll need to space them more widely. The Green Globe chokes have the meaty leaves and are ones most people purchase at supermarkets. In the U.S. they are mainly grown in California, since they prefer mild, foggy, coastal regions. The Carciufo Romanesco, or Purple Romanesco remind me of appealing, purple-tinged chokes we would find at the Italian marketplace during our couple years in that beautiful country.  Chefs favor these beauties. This photos is from a site called Annie’s Annuals & Perennials in CA:

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While researching artichokes I learned that the plants are considered thistles and produce both male and female flower buds, which are the portion of the plant we eat. You can distinguish the males by their prickly tips that point upward. Female buds have more rounded, inward-pointing tips. Female buds are said to be more tender and more flavorful. Right now a big challenge is keeping the hens out of beds. It’s frustrating to find young plants scratched to bits. These low wire fences haven’t quite done the trick, so we’ll be edging beds with 2-ft.-tall chicken wire or other tall wire — not the prettiest solution, but essential since we allow the hens to be free ranging in the afternoons. IMG_4445

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