Artichokes in the Fridge – Vernalization 101

22 04 2012

I love artichokes. I enjoy them marinated, in dip, in pasta, cooked or fresh, straight out of the can. They are a tasty treat. Wouldn’t it be a bigger treat if I grew them in my own back yard?

 

There was one minor problem with this plan; artichokes do not natively grow in the South Central PA climate where I live. I was sure that with a little research I could figure something out.

 

Did you know that the artichoke that people eat is part of the bud from a large thistle plant? How did they figure out that was edible? And what happened to the unfortunate souls that tried the other parts of the plant? If the scales and thorns were a problem on the way down, what about the following day? Ouch! However, I digress.

 

These plants take up a lot of space – 4 to 5 feet tall, and just as large around. Fortunately, there is an unoccupied corner of the yard that will accommodate the thorny monster. When do I plant these for harvest in my area? The seed packet said 180 days –or- 360 days. I started them in January to hedge my bets. Why did the packet list two different maturity times?

 

I dug further, so to speak, and discovered that in most cases the plants just won’t produce the first year. It is not until year number two that those globes of goodness will line my plate. That is just not an acceptable option. Why did the packet list 180 days? Apparently, you can fake out the seedling into thinking it survived its first winter. In turn, it will produce a harvest at the end of the first growing season. This neat trick is called vernalization. The plant needs a week or two of temperatures below 50 degrees for the strategy to work.

 

Challenges, challenges, I sure love challenges. Mother Nature greeted my first attempt at chilling the plants with a week of outdoor temps in the 60s and 70s. When the weather doesn’t cooperate, Dave gets inventive. Artichoke plants, say hello to the Beer Fridge, um, the Beverage Fridge in the garage. I made a little room on the shelf and the plants were good to go. They got very chilly, and looked sad, but they survived.

Happy artichoke seedling

This is a picture under the basement grow lamp, before the plant made its journey to the refrigerator

 

Only time (approximately 180 days) will tell if the effort was successful. I will keep you updated.

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3 responses

24 02 2016
Joan Jenkins

Dave,
My name is Joan, I live outside of Chicago. I love artichokes also. I started my seedlings in late January. They are getting close to time for the fridge. I haven’t heard anything about lighting. When they are in the fridge, do we keep it dark or provide lighting?
Good luck with your crop.

25 02 2016
dave

I kept them in the fridge without light, but I think it was just dumb luck on my part that the plants survived. If doing this again, I would probably move the plants to a cold frame where they obtain both the cold temperatures and sufficient light.

26 02 2016
Joan Jenkins

So light must be somewhat important. I don’t have the time right now to make a cold frame so maybe I’ll try my garage with less light time. I’m just leary of killing them. Nobody I know has ever attempted artichoke so I don’t have much to go on. I’ve been researching but information is sketchy. Thanks for your post, It helped

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