Many of the annual and vegetable plants at the Denver Botanic Gardens are at their peak right now, and looking amazing. This photo of an artichoke plant in bloom was captured in the garden’s Potager Garden area. Artichokes are typically known as a food crop, with several cultivars grown worldwide, but many horticulturalists like to grow it as an interesting ornamental plant. Their large leaves and spiky flowers add a wonderful sculptural form to the garden. It is my understanding that on a typical artichoke farm, the flower buds are harvested and sent to market well before they open. In these photos we see that the flowers have been allowed to open, providing a stunning display for garden visitors.
Artichokes look a lot like thistles. And it turns out, artichokes are indeed related to thistles, with both plants being members of the very large family of plants that botanists call the Asteraceae.
The historical record holds that artichoke cultivation as a food goes back as far as ancient Greek and Roman times. It is likely that the Greeks brought artichoke cultivation to Italy. Some historians posit that cultivation of artichokes was further developed and improved upon in medieval Muslim Spain. The name artichoke can be traced to the medieval Arabic term “ardi shawki“.
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