Perused one of my local wild spots yesterday, with an eye out for the surplus. I’m looking for things whose cup overfloweth, if you know what I mean. So at this time, mostly overripe (we got about 1% of the harvest) wild artichokes (Cynara cardunculus) open up into these amazingly beautiful flowers. They are covered with bees just going nuts. Anyone know if they are good for bees or just makes them extra happy? Does this type of thistle pollen make good honey?
Quickly, the flowers close and dry out into this fluffy white material that is great for primitive fire making. Underneath this fluff are these large, beautiful seeds. They are edible and medicinal in the way that milk thistle seeds are. And the seeds are the one thing that nobody wants any more of in the environment, other than perhaps the bees. Considered noxious weeds by most, there isn’t much concern in harvesting the vast majority of the seeds. Most perspectives on ecology would report this as a service, to prevent the spread of this plant. Although I had one reader want to plant them, which from one perspective I think is awesome, and at the same time don’t recommend it. I keep a large garden in the habitat of these amazing plants, and with our difficult soil this year the award for the most productive food producer goes to: the large, 4 year old wild artichoke plant right outside the fence. Why do we insist on making things a struggle? If I had a property in this plant’s habitat with difficult soil, would I plant one if there weren’t any accessible to me? Probably. But I would be sure that it never spread by harvesting every wild artichoke (which is the immature, unopened flower head) and/or every seed that it makes. They don’t spread by runners.
Anyway, a missed opportunity (the vast number of unharvested artichokes) now feeds the bees and grows into the potential for a massive seed harvest. We’ll see if people turn out for that!