9 Types of Artichoke Plants

What are the types of Artichokes?

There are two main types of Artichoke. First is the typical vegetable Artichoke which is descended from thistles and is a very popular food around the world. These Artichokes come in a huge number of varieties and sub-varieties. Second is the Jerusalem Artichoke, which is in fact a root vegetable.

In this article, we’ll be looking at nine of the most popular varieties of Artichokes from around the world:

  1. Baby Anzio
  2. Big Heart
  3. Chianti
  4. Fiesole
  5. Green Globe
  6. Jerusalem
  7. Lyon
  8. Mercury
  9. Violetta

Can you eat all types of Artichokes?

All Artichokes are edible. In larger varieties, not all of the flowers are edible, however. The “choke” is an inedible, hairy part found at the center of globe artichokes. This part is absent from some baby Artichoke varieties, meaning they can be cooked and eaten whole. Always check before cooking!

Is a Cardoon an Artichoke?

As the ancestor of all baby and globe varieties, the Cardoon is indeed an Artichoke. It just isn’t a cultivated Artichoke like you would find for sale at your local grocery store. In fact, finding Cardoons for sale is very difficult, especially if you live outside of their natural distribution.

What are the best Artichokes to buy?

If you wish to grow a beautiful ornamental plant for your garden, then medium-sized purple varieties like the Mercury or Violetta are best. When it comes to food, baby artichokes like the Anzio are best for grilling and roasting, whereas globe varieties like the Lyon are better steamed or stuffed.

9 Types of Artichoke

1. Baby Anzio

Artichoke varieties - Baby Anzio Artichoke
Types of Artichoke plants – 1. Baby Anzio

First cultivated in central Italy, this variety is believed to have descended from the Romanesco Artichoke. Though admittedly this is hard to determine for sure. Romanescos are a type of larger, purple hued Artichoke and are particularly popular in France and Italy for their full flavour. Fortunately, the Baby Anzio seems to have inherited this colour and flavour  – though in a somewhat smaller package. 

In fact, the Baby Anzio is not only the smallest Artichoke on this list – it’s also the smallest variety in the world. Reaching only 1 to 2 inches in diameter, it’s small size means it can be harvested earlier in the year than most other varieties. 

This small size also means the Baby Anzio can be cooked whole after removing the outermost leaves. In recipes, this variety will work equally well as a topping on pizzas as it does for a grilled starter. Other dishes that work well with the Anzio are deep fried baby artichokes, pan fried artichokes, and roasted artichokes.

2. Big Heart

Artichoke varieties - big heart artichoke
Types of Artichoke plants – 2. Big Heart

The Big heart is one of the largest, densest, and meatiest artichoke varieties in the world. Interestingly, it is also one of the newest, having been developed in California in the 1980’s. Rusty Jordan, the man who cultivated the Big Heart, wanted to make an artichoke that grew faster, matured earlier in the year, and produced a higher yield. 

Given that California has a stable Mediterranean climate and rich agricultural background, Rusty was able to achieve just that. Indeed, the Big Heart grows to a whopping 3.5 – 5.5 inches in diameter, with a large base and high weight. The center of the flower is meaty and weighs up to 1 lb. 

Though not as versatile as some varieties when it comes to recipes, this variety is the ideal for making stuffed artichokes. If you wish to grow Big Heart Artichokes, be advised that they need a lot of space. Be sure to space the plants 6 to 8 feet apart.

3. Chianti

Artichoke varieties - Chianti Artichoke
Types of Artichoke plants – 3. Chianti

The Chianti Artichoke is also derived from the famous Romanesco variety, having a touch of dark red (Chianti) colour on its outer leaves. Its overall shape is less wide than the Big Heart and more in line with that of other varieties. Nonetheless, it does grow to a decent size, usually around 4 inches wide. 

As far as recipes go, the Chianti is best for stuffing, though it can work well steamed. To eat it this way, the outer leaves should be removed. Then, once steamed, the leaves can be removed and dipped in butter or aioli sauce. Rather than incorporating it into a dish, steamed chianti is best as a starter. You simply remove one leaf at a time and strip the flesh off with your teeth, leaving behind the hard parts. 

Given its colour, the Chianti will make a nice ornamental plant. Notwithstanding, it will not do well in cool climates with short growing seasons.

4. Fiesole

Types of Artichoke - Fiesole Artichoke
Types of Artichoke plants – 4. Fiesole

Exceptional both in colour and flavour, the Fiesole artichoke can trace its ancestry back to the village of Fiesole in Tuscany, Italy. Though it is most certainly named after an Italian town, it seems this variety was in fact derived from an artichoke known as the Violetta de Provence – a French sub-variety of the Violetta. This is unsurprising as Provence is also a mediterranean region, and crops have been shared between Italy and France over the centuries. 

Appearance-wise the Fiesole is a deep purple colour, just slightly more intense than the Baby Anzio, which we discussed earlier. It is also a similar size to that variety – being just 2 inches across. As far as overall shape goes, it is similar to a tulip. 

When cooking the Fiesole, you can add it to any “baby” artichoke recipe. Braised, roasted, and grilled are probably best for getting this variety’s unique flavour, however. Said flavour is intense, almost fruity with nutty undertones. To prepare it, the outermost leaves should be removed, but unless it was harvested late there will be almost no choke.

If you wish to grow Fiesole artichokes, remember that they will require full sun to mature. 

5. Green Globe

Types of Artichoke - Green Globe Artichoke
Types of Artichoke plants – 5. Green Globe

As the name implies, the Green Globe is rounded in shape, with a large flower. This artichoke is the typical, solid green variety that you will see for sale most often in grocery stores. It is of average size, and has a subtle flavour that goes well as a light accompaniment to salads and starters. It’s only drawback is that it has slightly less flavour than the Fiesole, for example.

One advantage that the Green Globe artichoke has is that it is hardy, and will become perennial when grown in mild climate zones. Given it’s large size, this makes it ideal for an ornamental garden plant. Just remember that each one will need at least 3 square feet of growing room. They also do better if grown in direct sunlight.

6. Jerusalem

Types of Artichoke - Jerusalem Artichokes
Types of Artichoke plants – 6. Jerusalem

Despite the name, the Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) is actually a root vegetable more closely related to Sunflowers. Rather than producing edible flowers, the Jerusalem is a tuber; producing large, carbohydrate-rich roots. These roots have an outwards appearance that loosely resembles real artichokes, hence the name. 

Given its high energy content, the Jerusalem Artichoke is a useful crop. As such it was cultivated by Native American peoples for thousands of years, being endemic to the Great Plains region. After Europeans arrived in North America, they adopted the vegetable and spread it all over the continent. Eventually it also made it back to Europe.

Today, you can find the tubers for sale at markets around the world, though it is now somewhat less common in the US than elsewhere. When it comes to cultivation, this Sunflower relative is both tough and perennial. The flowers will be bigger and brighter, however, if grown in a climate that experiences hot spells during summer.

7. Lyon

Types of Artichoke - Lyon Artichoke
Types of Artichoke plants – 7. Lyon

The Lyon Artichoke is the largest on our list, having flowers that grow up to 6 inches across. This substantial size means that the hearts of this artichoke are bigger than any other variety, making it ideal for stuffing. That said, it does work well steamed for salads, and the leaves have even been used to make beer. 

The name Lyon Artichoke came about because of this variety’s origins in the Royal gardens of Lyon, France. This heritage made the Lyon something of a delicacy, before it became so widely available in more recent years.

Given its uniform light green colour, this variety is perhaps less appealing as an ornamental plant. Nonetheless, it is hardy and easy to cultivate if given enough room. 

8. Mercury

Types of Artichoke - Mercury Artichoke
Types of Artichoke plants – 8. Mercury

Another deep purple variety, the Mercury Artichoke has a couple of characteristics that set it apart. For one, it is of medium size. At around 3 inches, it’s bigger than the Baby Anzio, but smaller than the Green Globe or other commonly cultivated artichokes. 

Secondly, it has a sweeter flavour than most other types. This makes it useful for dishes where using a sauce is inconvenient. Grilled or roasted dishes are ideal and will make the best use of the Mercury. 

Being another descendant of the ancient Romanesco Artichoke, the Mercury grows best in Mediterranean climates and enjoys full sun. For ornamental use, this vegetable does become quite impressive to look at if the flowers are left to fully mature.

9. Violetta

Types of Artichoke - Violetta Artichokes
Types of Artichoke plants – 9. Violetta

The Violetta is known by a variety of names, given its widespread cultivation and numerous sub-varieties. You may see it called the Violetta Precoce, Violetta di Chioggia, or Violet de Provence. As you might guess, it originated in Italy, and is still popular in both that country and the Provence region of neighbouring France. 

Appearance-wise the Violetta is very similar to the Mercury, but has a more tapered shape. As for its flavour, it is subtle and buttery – not particularly unique as artichokes go. It does make up for this by producing a large number of flowers when well looked-after. 

Owing to its Mediterranean origins, the Violetta cannot be grown as a perennial plant in cooler climates. It does not tolerate frost, even when dormant. If you wish to grow this variety in a Northern climate, you must plant indoors, then only move outside after the last frost. When cultivated this way, Violettas will produce a decent crop, or make a pleasant ornamental plant.

Infographic 5 Types of artichoke plants
5 Types of Artichoke plants.

5 Types of Artichoke planst as a downloadable PDF

Other resources relating to types of Artichoke plants:

Top 8 Health Benefits of Artichokes and Artichoke extract

Easy Roman Braised Artichoke Hearts (Carciofi alla Romana) Recipe

Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) – Illinois Wildflowers

Clarisse Walters
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