From East Africa cultivation was extended to the eastern Mediterranean and then to all parts of the world with suitable climate and soil.
Many scientists still argue about the real origin of artichoke and if it is a different plant from the thistle. The most likely hypothesis is that wild cardoon (C. cardunculus L.) was the original plant. It can still be found abundantly nowadays.
This discussion comes from the ancient Greeks, to the fact that the two cultivated varieties derive from wild thistle to the point that all species can interbreed forming fertile specimens.
From this wild species , by means of selection and breeding, both cultivates species, artichoke (Cynara scolymus L.) and cardoon (Cynara Carduncellus) would have been produced. Therefore, the three representatives would be varieties of the same species.
Other species of artichoke growing on the Mediterranean are C. syriaca Boiss., C. baetica (Spreng.) Pau, C. cornigera Lindley, C. Cyrenaica Maire & Weiler, C. algarbiensis Cosson, and C. L humilis. In all them, the relationship and similarity to the wild thistle appears to be not so obvious.
The cultivation of the artichoke is very old. The first references must be sought in the drawings in Egyptian tombs. The Greeks and Romans ate it in abundance and always thought it was a plant that brought them great digestive and aphrodisiac properties. At that that time they only ate the plant stems. The first reference of eating the artichoke flower bud a as a vegetable is dated in 1400 in Italy.
The artichoke is grown in warm climate countries, without the presence of frost, in a nutrient-rich soil, under good moisture and appropriate drainage that avoids the appearance of fungi.
The world's largest producers are Italy and Spain, delivering over 70% of worldwide production . Other major producing countries in Europe are France and Greece. In North America we have to distinguish U.S. production that is centered in the state of California. In South America, major producing countries are Argentina, Mexico and Peru. In Africa, we have countries like Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. China is the largest producer in Asia.
Varieties of artichokes
Among the main varieties of artichoke we have the following:
- Tudela White
- Imperial Star
- Green Globe