The large flower buds are harvested just before they begin to open. These heads usually start to develop a reddish color when they are ready to be cut. Artichokes can be eaten raw, but are usually steamed for a half hour to 45 minutes, depending on size. The petals or "scales" will pull off easily when they have cooked enough. In addition to the artichoke heart (the base of the flower) the thickened flesh at the base of the larger scales may be scraped off and eaten. The scales get smaller and smaller the deeper you get into the center of the head. The small undeveloped petals are scraped off, leaving the heart.
Most varieties, such as Green Globe Improved, will not produce a crop the first season, and so must be wintered over. The plants will tolerate frozen soil if covered by a thick layer of mulch. Mice may be a problem, tunneling through the mulch to consume the plants during the winter. Overwintering this tender perennial is easier in areas with a mild winter. The flower buds are usually produced in late spring or early summer the second year.
Direct sow in early spring when soil temperatures reach 55°F. Direct sown plants may not mature the first year in zones 6 and below. Fertilization Tips-Apply 1 cup of a blended organic fertilizer or a shovel full of chicken manure around each transplant to provide the nutrition necessary for optimum production.