Readers who recall last spring's blog about my attempts to grow artichokes will remember my efforts seemed to be the definition of insanity: repeating the same tasks, in exactly the same way, and expecting different results. Today, I happily report that, with help from the fine folks at Renfrow Hardware, located in Matthews, NC, my sanity may be intact, at least when it comes to growing successful artichoke plants.
|I chose 2 varieties of artichokes|
|Healthy plants from Renfrow Hardware|
NC gardeners who have yet to visit Renfrow Hardware, (http://www.renfrowhardware.com/) at 188 North Trade Street, in Matthews, should make haste to get there soon. David Blackley, his daughter, Pressley, and other family members and knowledgeable staff offer the best selection of heirloom seeds I have seen under one NC roof and many of them are locally grown. Greenhouses are stocked with healthy fruit, vegetable, herb and flower varieties and earlier in the season, several types of seed potatoes filled bins. Allow time to wander throughout the store and marvel at the inventory. From canning supplies to nuts and bolts, and, if you visit in the near future, even baby chicks are among the offerings. It's the kind of homey place where customers linger, chatting with the staff and each other.
When I saw beautiful, healthy artichoke plants at Renfrow, I could not resist trying each of the two available varieties and I planted them at my home, rather than the farm, so I could keep a close eye on them. If, by chance, they prove to be perennial plants, they are growing in an ideal location. Before placing them in the ground, I added lots of compost, some creek sand, ground eggshells, blood and bone meal and a pinch of Epsom salts. Heavy feeders, artichokes will probably enjoy the same "cocktail" I prepare for my tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.
|Artichoke, North Carolina|
Since artichokes grow best when the soil is damp, our recent dry, breezy days mean the plants require daily watering. A few days ago, I noticed a small bud-like growth in the center of one of the plants and I assumed it was the base of what would grow into a stalk that would, hopefully, produce artichokes. When I realized the bud was, indeed, just that, and I harvested my first baby artichoke, I carefully sliced it from the plant base and tenderly held it in my hand, admiring its miniature perfection.
|My first artichoke, courtesy of Renfrow Hardware plants|
Now, safely stored in the refrigerator, that small, tender bud calls to me. Will it be sauteed and sliced, dipped into a lemon butter caper sauce? Will it be quartered and added to a salad of fresh baby lettuce from the farm? Whatever its preparation, this first artichoke will be memorable, both for its presence and for proof positive that with enough faith and work, and help from friends like those at Renfrow Hardware, an insanity cycle can be broken.