By Hayley Boriss, Agricultural Issues Center, University of California.
Revised April 2014 by Shannon Hoyle AgMRC, Iowa State University.
Native to the Mediterranean region, artichokes were brought to the United States in the 1800s and first grown in Louisiana by French immigrants and in California by the Spanish. Today artichokes are grown almost exclusively in California, which accounts for more than 99 percent of national production.
The artichoke, a thistle-like plant, thrives best in frost-free areas with cool and foggy summers. The predominant variety of artichoke in California is the Green Globe, which is planted as a perennial, although other varieties are also planted as annuals through direct seeding or transplants, depending on the region. These annuals include the Imperial Star, Big Heart and Desert Globe.
The total area planted and harvested in 2013 was 7,000 acres. This is down from the 7,300 acres planted and harvested in 2012. U.S. production of artichokes is concentrated in California, with limited production also occurring in Washington and Oregon. Total production in 2013 was 945 thousand cwt down from 1.1 million cwt in 2012. The crop was valued at $57.6 million, also an increase from the previous two years. (NASS)
As of 2011, the world’s largest artichoke producer was Italy, followed by Egypt, Spain and Peru. Italy produced 474,550 metric tons (MT) of artichokes; the other three countries produced from more than 150,000 MT to more than 212,000 MT. (FAO)
Artichoke prices in the United States are seasonal and affected by periods of high and low supply. Prices typically peak during the winter months when supply is low, and they drop in March as production reaches its peak. During high production months, smaller artichokes are processed into marinated artichoke hearts in an attempt to increase revenue during times of low prices. Artichoke prices increased to $61.00 per cwt in 2013. The average price of artichokes peaked at $80.70 per cwt in 2004 . (NASS 2013)
The marketable portion of the artichoke is the result of harvesting an immature flower. If left to mature, artichokes blossom into a bright purple inedible flower. Artichokes are marketed as fresh, frozen or canned products.
The appearance of fresh artichokes is an important aspect to marketing. Cleanliness, compactness and no evidence of frost damage all enhance the appearance. Any defects on the vegetable may make it difficult to sell, despite the fact that eating quality is not necessarily affected.
The state-chartered California Artichoke Board was originally created for generic promotion, research and grower cooperation. Since 1999, however, the majority of its resources have been invested in research. The marketing order for artichokes is voted on every five years.
According to ERS, per person consumption of artichokes was 1.7 pounds in 2011.
Demand for artichokes is highest during the winter season, which also coincides with the period of low supply. The nutritional benefits of artichokes include high levels of chromium, fiber, folate, magnesium, potassium and vitamin C. Artichokes contain no fat or cholesterol. Current research indicates that the liver benefits from cynarin, a compound found in artichoke’s leaves. Silymarin, another compound found in artichokes, has powerful anti-oxidant properties and may help the liver regenerate healthy tissue. (Pezzini Farms)
In 2013 U.S. artichoke exports totaled $4.0 million. Canada was the leading export market for U.S. artichokes, followed by Mexico. Combined, these two countries accounted for nearly the entire U.S. export market. However, exports are negligible compared to imports. (FAS)
The United States is a net importer of artichokes. The country imported prepared artichokes valued at $124 million in 2013. Peru was the leading supplier, followed by Spain. (Until 2007, Spain accounted for the majority of U.S. artichoke imports.) The United States also imported fresh artichokes valued at $5.1 million, mainly from Mexico. (FAS)
Artichoke Production in California, Vegetable Research and Information Center, University of California Cooperative Extension, 2008.
Artichokes, Vegetable Research and Information Center, University of California Cooperative Extension.
California Artichoke Advisory Board.
California Artichokes, 1925-2011, California Historic Commodity Data, National Ag Statistics Service (NASS), California Field Office, USDA.
Global Ag Trade System, Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), USDA.
Major Food and Agricultural Commodities and Producers, Statistics Divison, FAO, UN.
Pezzini Farms, Castroville, California - This business has produced Green Globe artichokes for over 50 years. In addition to artichokes, they offer thousands of local and farm fresh products including fresh produce, dips and sauces, vinaigarettes and oils, seasoning, chips and dips.
Vegetables and Pulses, Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA.
Vegetables and Pulses Yearbook, ERS, USDA.
Vegetables Annual Summary, NASS, USDA.
Created December 2005 and revised April 2014.