The globe artichoke is seldom found in American gardens. The edible parts are the base of the flower heads and the midribs of the large blanched leaves; the latter are called chards. The flower head scales must be cut when young and tender. They are generally eaten raw, although they may be boiled and served as "artichoke salad," or cooked and pickled.
The globe artichoke is hardy, but requires some protection during the winter in most northern sections. It is easily propagated from seed or suckers, or by division of roots. If the seeds are sown under glass in March, and the young plants pricked into pots before setting in the open, edible heads may be cut the first season. If the seeds are sown early in beds out of doors the plants should be set in the field the following spring. Some gardeners prefer to propagate from suckers, because plants from seeds show great variation.
This vegetable thrives in any rich, moist, but well-drained garden soil. The rows should be not less than 3 feet apart and the plants spaced 2 feet in the row. For the best results the plantations should not be retained more than two or three years. Some growers keep them only one year; when maintained for more than one season, the old plants are cut back to the ground in the fall and the ground mulched with 5 or 6 inches of coarse manure. In fields started from suckers or potted plants edible heads should be produced from early spring until frost in the fall.
The Jerusalem artichoke is produced to a very limited extent for American markets. It is native to the northern part of the United States and to parts of Canada. Although the tubers, which constitute the edible part, are regarded as equal to the potato in nutritive value, the taste is not relished by most people. They may be served boiled, pickled or cooked for salads. The tubers are most valued for stock feeding. Hogs are especially fond of them and are sometimes privileged to harvest the crop.
This vegetable does well in poor soil, but responds to liberal feeding. Sandy loams are preferred. Under favorable conditions the plants are said to yield 500 to 1,000 bushels an acre. The tubers may be planted whole, or cut into one to three-eye pieces, in the same way that potatoes are prepared for planting. Planting very early in the spring is essential to heavy yields. The rows should be about 3 feet apart, and the tubers or cut pieces 15 to 18 inches apart in the row. As soon as the tops are dead the crop may be dug, or left in the ground all winter without danger of injury by freezing.
The edible species of asparagus is indigenous to temperate Europe and Asia. History records its culture at least 200 years before the Christian era. The Romans and the Greeks not only prized this vegetable for food, but all parts of the plant were highly valued for their medicinal properties. The shoots were often dried by the ancients, and, after soaking in hot water, only a few minutes were required in cooking. This method of preservation is still used in Europe, and to some extent in the United States. At least 400 years ago the peasants of France, Holland, Germany, Hungary and England gathered the tender shoots of the wild plants and sold them at the market places. For many hundreds of years stalks of mammoth size have been grown by gardeners in various countries. Asparagus has been a popular vegetable in America ever since the earliest settlements were established. It was doubtless introduced by seeds or plants brought from European gardens.
There are about 150 species of the genus Asparagus, which belongs to the lily family. Although the shoots of a few other species are edible, Asparagus officinalis is the only one that has found a prominent place in the vegetable gardens of the world. The hardy, branching herbaceous plants are 3 to 7 feet high. The numerous filiform branchlets and the very fine delicate foliage make the tops valuable for decorative purposes. While the plant is herbaceous, the root stock or crown is perennial, making an annual growth of 1 to 3 inches. This extension is practically horizontal, although the rootstock or crown rises nearer the surface of the ground each succeeding year. The horizontal roots are fleshy, ⅛ to ¬ inch in diameter and light colored. The small feeding rootlets form on the large succulent roots, and the latter gradually become hollow and die and are replaced by new roots.
Hexamer ("Asparagus," by F. M. Hexamer, p. 15) gives the following description of the flowers and the berries: "The asparagus flowers are mostly solitary at the nodes, of greenish-yellow color, drooping or filiform, jointed peduncles, perianth, six-parted, campanulate. Anthers, introrse; style, short; stigma, three-lobed; berry, red, spherical, three-celled; cells, two-seeded. While the flowers are generally dioecious - staminate and pistillate flowers being borne on different plants - there appear also hermaphrodite flowers, having both pistils and fully developed stamens in the same flower."
Asparagus is universally regarded as one of the most important vegetables. The home garden is not complete without it, and our markets are demanding a larger supply every year. It is grown in nearly all parts of the civilized world, but in France, Germany, Holland, England and the United States enormous quantities are produced for commercial purposes. It is said that more than 3,000 people are employed in the asparagus plantations near Paris. In the United States the enterprise has been developed to the greatest extent in New Jersey, California and New York, while it is an important crop in nearly every other state.