The Globe Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) is a perennial thistle originating in Southern Europe around the Mediterranean. It grows to 1.5–2 m tall, with arching, deeply lobed, silvery glaucous-green leaves 50–82 cm long. The flowers develop in a large head from an edible bud about 8–15 cm diameter with numerous triangular scales; the individual florets are purple. The edible portion of the buds consists primarily of the fleshy lower portions of the involucral bracts and the base, known as the "heart"; the mass of immature florets in the center of the bud is called the "choke". These are inedible in older larger flowers.
The origin of artichokes is unknown, though they are said to have come from the Maghreb (North Africa), where they are still found in the wild state; the seeds of artichokes, probably cultivated, were found during the excavation of Mons Claudianus in Egypt during the Roman period. The various names of the artichoke in European languages all ultimately come from Arabic al-kharshuf (approximate spelling). The Arabic term Ardi-Shoki (ارضي شوكي) which means "ground thorny" is a folk etymology of the English name. The cardoon, a naturally occurring variant of the same species, is native to the South Mediterranean, even though it has not been mentioned in extant Classic literature. Artichokes were cultivated in Sicily during the Greek occupation, the Greeks calling them kaktos. In this period the leaves and flower heads, which cultivation had already improved from the wild form, were eaten. The Romans, who called the vegetable carduus received the plant from the Greeks. Further improvement in the cultivated form appear to have taken place in the Muslim period in the Maghreb, although the evidence is inferential only.
See also: Florist, Florists, Flower