Artichokes are nature’s way of saying, “You should eat more garlic butter.” The leaves (actually ‘bracts’) are perfect little biodegradable single-use spoons, ideal for scooping up artery-clogging sauces and dips.
Unfortunately, artichokes are also much beloved by ants and aphids. And while such critters plague other crops, you can’t just use the hose to blast them off artichokes the way you can with kale and even strawberries. The little bastards hide in the nooks and crannies, under the leaves and deep in the artichoke heart, and all you do is get your artichoke soggy.
After last year, I got sick of fighting the bugs, and just ripped the plant out. Then a scrap of root that I’d missed grew into a 3′ tall plant with such determination I couldn’t bring myself to rip it back out.
As soon as the flowers started to form, the ants arrived, and they brought their aphids with them.
Aphids are the cows of the ant world. They suck the juice out of your plants, their digestive systems absorb the nutrients they need, and everything else — in the form of a sweet, sticky liquid we call “honeydew” — comes out their rear ends. And the ants drink it.
In exchange, the ants protect the aphids from predators, and move them around to better pasture, and shelter them in bad weather. And also rip off their wings so they can’t get away.
So what is an artichoke grower to do? A partial solution is to pick the artichokes when they’re young and hold their leaves more tightly against themselves, making it somewhat more difficult for the bugs to get underneath, though a fair number still manage to get in.
Without resorting to pesticides, does anyone have other suggestions for keeping ants and aphids out of artichokes? Or should I just come up with a recipe for parmesan-honeydew-HCO2H dip?
HCO2H is formic acid, found in ant venom, bee stings, and the classic 1954 sci-fi / horror film, Them!