The Latin genus name Cynara derives from the Greek word kynára or kynaros, a kind of artichoke named for the Aegean Island Kinara. The species name scolymus derives from the Greek skólymus, a foreign word of unknown origin, folk-etymologically adjusted to the Greek skólop (= «pointed stake»), 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 was later forgotten. The name «artichoke» derives from the Arabic al-harsúf through the Spanish alcarchofa and the northern Italian artiocco.
The artichoke's original ancestor is thought to be Cynara cardunculus L. Artichoke cultivation is documented as far back as the 15th century.
The artichoke is a robust perennial plant growing up to 2 m high. It has large, simple to pinnatifid leaves running in arches to pointy thorns. Today, most cultivated sorts are without spines. The impressive flower heads have a diameter of from 8 to 15 cm. The fleshy receptacles 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, Soutt America, and California. They also grow in northern regions in sandy soils in sunny, wind-shielded locations.
A.Vogel/Bioforce uses fresh artichoke leaves grown in our own controlled organic cultivation. The minced leaves are macerated with alcohol and water.
A preparation of fresh or dried leaves as a tea is also common. However, the active substance content falls markedly 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 receptacle are greatly prized as a delicacy.