The Latin name Cynara is derived from the Greek word kynára or kynaros, a type of artichoke named after the Aegean Island of Kinara. The species name scolymus is derived from the Greek skólymus, of unknown origin, which has been interpreted as the Greek skólop (= ’pointed stake‘) by etymologists, due to the plant's pointed thorns. The artichoke is thought to have originated in Ethiopia. The plant was prized as a medication by the ancient Egyptians and Romans, but later fell into oblivion. The artichoke's original ancestor is thought to be Cynara cardunculus L. Artichoke cultivation is documented as far back as the 15th century. The name ‘artichoke‘ which first appeared with this spelling in 1556 comes from the Arabic al-harsúf through the Spanish alcarchofa, the French artichaut and the northern Italian artiocco.
The artichoke is a robust perennial plant growing up to 2 metres high. It has large, simple to pinnatifid leaves, which are downy on the underside, arched and tapered in pointed thorns. Today, most cultivated species do not have any thorns. The impressive flower heads are between 8cm and 15cm in diameter. The fleshy ’hearts’ are filled with blue-violet tubular blossoms and are surrounded by blunt husk leaves arranged like roof tiles.The artichoke flowers from July to August.
Today, artichokes are cultivated in the Mediterranean region, South America and California. They also thrive in northern regions in sunny locations sheltered from the wind and on sandy beaches.
A.Vogel/Bioforce uses fresh artichoke leaves grown in our own controlled organic cultivation. The chopped leaves are macerated with alcohol and water.Fresh or dried leaves are commonly used as a tea. However, the content of active ingredients decreases considerably when the leaves are dried. The fresh herb is squeezed for juice or processed with wine to produce an aperitif.The fleshy husk leaves and ‘heart’ are greatly prized as a delicacy.