While Florida’s agricultural sector is most often attributed with citrus, many of our state’s farmers are looking to branch into alternative crops. Agricultural diversity makes for a stronger and more resilient economy, and many Floridian landowners are looking for new viable crops that they can use their land to cultivate.
One potential alternative crop Florida farmers are looking at is Cynara cardunculus, better known as artichokes. Commonly used in cooking, artichokes are a variety of thistle from which flowers can grow. The base of the flower is edible until the flowers bloom at which point the base becomes inedible. The edible portion of the artichoke, known as the “heart,” is a common ingredient that can be found in most supermarkets.
Native to the Mediterranean, artichokes and their species variants may have been in use for cooking since the days of Ancient Greece and are mentioned as plants by scholars as long as 1,300 years ago.
Artichokes have been cultivated here in the United States, mostly in California. But, at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, research is underway to study how artichokes could be grown here in our own state.
There are obstacles for artichoke growth here in Florida mostly due to the climate requirements for the plant. However, it is possible to induce artichoke growth using a plant hormone. Due to Florida’s warm climate, artichoke growth in Florida would not likely yield as much as in cooler parts of the country, but that doesn't mean it isn't viable as a promising alternative crop.
A single artichoke could go for a price of five dollars, and the retail cost of artichokes makes it a very viable alternative crop for Floridian farmers willing to invest in a relatively new crop for the state.