Culture ethnobotany foraging gardening invasive species local food permaculture Plants wild food

Wild Artichokes are here!

Cynara cardunculus, or artichoke thistle, is the wild version of the commerical artichoke. But get this, they taste the same, and have delicious hearts, but they are armored with thistle spikes. Considering eating a whole artichoke down the heart is a slow food and fun ordeal already in our culinary traditions, then why should adding thorns be that big a difference? I want to say this about them, they are very sharp, but not once have they ever broken my skin. I wish I could say the same about pruning roses.

Here’s the other catch: They are way easier to grow, in fact you probably needn’t grow them at all considering they are in massive abundance here in the wild, and the only thing they currently feed are the bees with their flowers, and Monsanto for the Round-up bought to combat these weeds that very few people want around. This is an abundant food perfect for humans to harvest as food. As millions and millions of Eastern Europeans flock to the forest to pick mushrooms in the summer, why don’t we gather and have Wild Artichoke Fest here?

I also grow regular (commerical) artichokes in the same habitat. I would say that out of all the plants in my garden, the gophers’ favorite by far are my artichokes. Also, as you might have seen in my previous video, my artichokes are also usually full of aphids and the ants that farm them.

The gophers don’t touch the wild artichokes, and they are aphid and ant free as well. Did I mention that I never have to water them and they grow for many years and are showy and beautiful like an ornamental cactus?

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7 thoughts on “Wild Artichokes are here!

  1. Hi Kevin,

    I’ve missed hiking with you these past couples of months, and hopefully will rejoin you soon. I have an artichoke question. There are some wild ones in a field near my house, and I’d love to nab them to plant in my yard. The heads are all purple and lovely right now. What’s the best way to get them into my dirt?


  2. Wow, I never thought anyone would actually want to plant these! When the purple heads are completely dried out and faded in color, the seeds will be ripe. You can tug at the fluff and the beautiful hard seed will come out. This seed is like a milk thistle seed, edible and good for your liver. You can plant it if you choose. Thanks!

  3. We have a field near us that is all wild artichokes. That said, we have a large plot of domestic artichoke in our yard that was here when we moved in two years ago. We never water it and they do fantastic – no aphids or ants (we live in Vallejo). There are earwigs hiding in them, but they are easy to get out with a sink full of water. We actually can’t keep up with them in the Spring. Last year we got over 40lbs of them.

  4. hi-

    a thought: if gophers don’t go ‘fer’ the wild ones, i wonder if there is some alkaloid or stronger substance in them that isn’t present in the domestic varieties…i wonder if that makes them slightly less healthy in large quantities than the domestic?

    i only ask in wanting the scientific and nutritional perspective, as well as because of the fact that artichokes are my favorite food to eat, hands down (and i’m an omnivore…). i’d like to plant them in my garden; i’d like to know which, or both, i should plant and why.


  5. I have not done any laboratory analysis, so I’m not certainly not sure, but I highly doubt there are anything alkaloid wise in the wild ones that are not in the domestic ones. With perhaps only a few exceptions where a non-food has been bread into food such as wild lettuce, wild undomesticated foods are far better for you than domesticated ones. I think it’s because there are spines on the plant at the base where the gophers like to take them down.

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