Exhibition tips for Globe Artichokes
Globe artichokes are at their best at the height of the show season, and if well grown can be an attractive addition to a collection of vegetables, or shown on their own as a single dish. In both categories, six artichokes is the usual number required. In some cases judges prefer artichokes displayed in pyramids, in which case you will need more.
There is no special timing called for, as the plants continue to produce a series of flower heads on the lateral branches throughout the summer and early autumn period. The king heads formed early in the season on the end of the central stems are usually larger than those produced on the side branches, but adequate heads can usually be found lower down the plant. 1
Try to pick the artichokes as close to the show time as possible. If you have to pick them a few days earlier, cut the heads with about 30 cm (1’) of stalk attached. Then put the stems in a bucket or other deep container full of water. Change the water every other day and at the same time trim the bottom 2.5 cm (1”) of stem off. Alternatively, store the heads dry in a cool, draught-proof place, with a maximum temperature of 4.5°C (40°F); they should keep for up to a week.
There is no special preparation needed, except for cutting off any remaining length of stem, very nearly flush with the base of the head for those to go at the top of the pyramid; others can have successively longer stems, depending on their position in the display. For transport to the show, pack them tightly between layers of tissue paper; it is not necessary to wrap each head individually. They look best when displayed simply, either formed into a pyramid or in a shallow bowl or plate. The judges will look for large, deep green, shapely heads, without any spininess or discolouration. The heads should be as uniform as possible and you should avoid showing one or two enormous heads which make the remaining ones look puny by comparison. Six perfectly matched moderate-sized heads are far more likely to be awarded high points.
Vert de Laon: considered best all-round variety; heads fat, round, smooth and mild flavoured, weighing 0.5 kg (1 lb) or more; available as rooted. Green Globe (Green Ball): compact growing but prolific variety; heads 15-17.5 cm (5-7”) across without prickles; available as seeds.