Monday, December 30, 2013
Sometimes you just start over.
It may not be well thought out, or prudent, or financially promising, or likely to succeed, but you do it anyway.
The small farm that started this blog has been idle for years---I travel too much and and am too often away summers and winters for work in the US to have kept my word in maintaining it.
Nevertheless, when a neighbor, who had been cleaning out his artichoke patch, asked if I wanted some leftovers.....I hesitated only briefly before saying " Yes".
He asked if I had the soil prepared already and I said, "No".
He said, "you'd better start....it's supposed to rain tomorrow...."
and I left his house with about 50 Artichoke plants.....
He saved the small ones. They're really good lightly boiled and eaten like cardoons.....but his wife can't stand them.....so he didn't need many and was happy to give away what would have ended up in his compost pile.
The soil was wet and heavy from Fall rains. Too wet for a tractor and too wet really to walk in.
I used a greenhouse tool to fork the soil over, aerating it from below, then tilled in lightly some well-aged compost. Alex and Sami helped dig shallow holes, throw in a fistful of compost and a plant and cover them with soil. A single stamp of the foot to settle the soil around them. We cut off the tops of the plants to help them avoid withering before they put out new roots. We finished just before dark and it did indeed, rain that night.
They're Morellini, the small oval purple artichokes the Italians love (and eat raw or preserved in jars of olive oil).
If things go well they'll grow new roots and establish during the rest of the Winter and early Spring and come MAY they should be a meter high and a meter across and send up the flower buds that will become our next crop....and even if we have to be gone again this Summer; we will still have artichokes to eat before we go.
Note: Artichokes (carciofi in Italian) are a common local crop. Each plant is a biennial, growing a big, spiny, bushy plant the first year, then flowering the next. While the flowers are enormous purple thistles, they are usually picked as unopened buds which you'd recognize as an artichoke.
Only one type is grown commercially in the US (Green Globe)-- a huge, round stuffing type of artichoke) but in Italy there are many varieties and in Florence, the favorite is a small crispy green or purple artichoke that is usually eaten raw. (You can't do this with a green globe no matter how fresh it is). Each plant dies after flowering but the plant sends up numerous small suckers/shoots before it does and these will flower or produce each year. So while technically a biennial, the plant will produce artichokes for years from the new suckers. (We usually thin them to just one per plant so they get bigger and so did my neighbor, which is why he had them to give away....).