Summer has begun, and many spiny plants are blooming in this season. For this month we chose an impressive spiny plant, a plant that has many uses, the Artichoke, Cynara scolymus. The Artichoke is a spiny perennial plant of the Asteraceae family that grows 1.5 m tall and more.
The Artichoke is not a wild plant. It is the outcome of crossing and selection of wild Cynara species, mainly Cynara cardunculus from central and western Mediterranean basin.
The Artichoke is known mainly from the kitchen: we eat and cook the budding flower heads. The dried flowers are a rennet substitute, used for curdling plant milks. The stems can be peeled and eaten as well.
But the Artichoke has more important uses, known since the time of ancient Greece. The leaves were used to treat Jaundice, Arthritis, different digestive problems, Urinary tract stones and more. In later periods, the Artichoke leaves were used to intensify digestive and absorption processes, treat liver diseases and to reduce levels of blood fats and sugars.
Scientific researches conducted in recent years have discovered that the Artichoke indeed has qualities that makes it an interesting medicinal plants. It is known as an anti-oxidant, and it was discovered that the Artichoke leaves are rich in a compound called Cynarine. The Cynarine improves Gastrointestinal activity, mainly the gallbladder and enzyme production and it reduces the blood cholesterol level. In addition, there are researches of the Artichoke’s efficiency as an anti-obese agent.
Alongside being an edible plant and a medicinal plant, the Artichoke is a beautiful plant, and it is used as a sculptural ornamental plant that blooms in a season when most plants have already finished blooming. In the garden you can enjoy an ornamental tall variant, characterized in silvery foliage and vivid violet flowers. It blooms at the entrance flower-beds, as well as in the Mediterranean section, and you are welcome to visit and enjoy it!
Written and photographed by: Yael Orgad, June 2019