Friday, March 4, 2011

Artichoke Lei

I grew up next to the beach on Oahu, and occasionally living in the chilly uplands gets a little wearisome especially toward the end of February when snow can still dust Mauna Kea and I’m huddled around the fireplace for yet another night. However, I have found there is one advantage to living in the damp, cooler climes of Hawaii’s higher elevations: Growing artichokes! Yes indeed, it’s possible to grow choke (pardon my Hilo pidgin) artichokes in Hawaii if you have the right conditions, as in what Volcano offers.

Artichoke likes cool, misty weather, lots of space (about six feet apart), full sun and good drainage. I planted mine as a seedling from a local nursery, purchased on whim, and alas I no longer know the variety since I planted it over a year ago and lost the label. I never really expected it to do well either, because at first it was besieged by tiny green caterpillars and I had planted it in a wooden half-barrel since I read somewhere artichokes can grow in containers. Of course, anything will live in a container, but I soon realized that planting an artichoke in a half-barrel is like keeping a baby hippo in a bathtub -- it works okay for a while but very soon no one is happy about it. Artichoke plants get big, and they have pokey things on them – they’re thistles – so brushing by one in a pot usually isn’t a pleasant sensation. (Yeah, I was kidding about the artichoke lei.)

Spring is the best time to plant artichokes, and since planting it directly into the ground my ‘choke is pest-free. If you live in a warmer lower elevation, you can try planting artichokes in an area that gets some afternoon shade. Who knows, you may get lucky.