The time is here to save your globe artichoke seeds! I’ve shot a video showing how I go about the process, but I’ll go into some detail with photos down below.
If you grow globe artichokes and have wondered about saving your own seeds it is super-duper easy to do. You only need a few tools that you probably have lying around your house anyway. So let’s do this!
I first save globe artichoke seeds in 2015. We had a very hot June that my artichoke plants loved–and they began flowering shortly after the hot spell. I decided to take a gamble and see if I could produce my own seeds. Gardening in the Rocky Mountains is always a gamble–cold, hot, snow, drought, hail…we have it all. But to grow globe artichokes, which are only hardy to Zone 7 (we’re a Zone 4), well, those are a challenge. It can be done, but it takes more effort than in a warmer climate. But to save seeds? That just sounds ridiculous. But I have now done it twice, and I know the first set were viable because some of the plants I grew last year were started from seeds I saved in 2015. And I’m fairly confident the seeds I harvested this year are viable as well. I’ll know soon enough come January.
In order to save the seeds all you have to do is let your artichokes flower. The bees will help to ensure you produce seeds:
There are at least 4 bees on this one flower–I have other photos that show 6 or more bees on the same flower–these flowers are quite literally the bees’ knees!
Once they flower, then you just wait. And wait. And wait some more. You have to wait until the flowers dry up on the stalks and then, and only then, may you cut them. I wait until the last. possible. moment. to make my cut. Ideally, you want to harvest the dried flowers after a long dry, warm spell. We had a good one this fall, and right before the weather turned cold and snowy I cut them off. They look like this:
The bracts turn tan, the flower petals are still slightly purple. When dry, the bracts become very sharp–you can see the sharp tips in the above photo. When removing these bracts to get to the seeds, you’ll want some hand protection. I prefer leather gloves.
Now comes the fun part–tearing apart the flower head. It’s like Christmas for seed savers! Using needle nose pliers, you just rip those bracts right off the flower, working your way inward to the soft, fluffy pappus that is attached to the top of the seed. I think they are very cool:
I use at least one leather glove on the hand that I use to hold the artichoke, then I use the pliers in the hand without the glove.
You can see several of the seeds in the middle of this head. To me, they look like little grey, fat dog ticks. I know that is really gross, but I’m sure you now have a really good image of what these seeds look like! There are dozens and dozens of seeds on one artichoke head.
Not all of the seeds will be fully developed. Some will be small and not viable like the ones shown at the top of this photo:
When you finish pulling away all the fluff and seeds, you are left with a ‘naked receptacle.’ (I love that term. It is, by the way, a true botanical description. I am not making this up.)
Now you have to separate your pile of seeds from the chaff and fluff and then store them in the fridge until you are ready to plant them. I put my seeds in old pill bottles with one of those little silica gel packs to absorb moisture. I’ll dig them out in January when I start seeds in my basement.
And that, my friends, is how you save globe artichoke seeds. It’s not complicated. It is a little time consuming. I have 3 heads saved from this summer and this photo is of just one of those heads! It took me about an hour to rip through the head, so I’m saving the others for another day. As you can see, I will have no shortage of seeds for next year!
Finally, the remaining two heads waiting to be de-seeded and the After Fluff, heading for the compost: