I came across some Cardoons for sale at our local market Wegmans last week, and it reminded me about a post which I never wrote last year. Cardoons are are a vegetable which more likely is grown by some of you as an ornamental plant - a striking thistle-like vase shaped plant with grayish prickly leaves, a magnificent vase shape and by late summer, a huge, architectural statement plant for large gardens. But this relative of the Artichoke ( Cynara cardunculus) occasionally shows up at the market at a winter vegetable, and one, which I feel deserves more attention. I thought that I might share both how I grow it, and how one can cook it.
Provide lots of space, for a well grown cardoon can reach 5 feet tall, and nearly as wide. I included mine in a perennial bed and then planted some in a small raised bed, so they did not grow as large as they could have, but I was still able to harvest a decent amount of cardoon stalks for Christmas Eve dinner ( it's a traditional Italian dish at the Holiday's) and stored some in the root cellar for later in the winter, when I use it in traditional French gratineés. Peeled, poached and sliced, the tender stems are best in light gratin dishes with béchamel with a bit of nutmeg and alpine cheese, or served with buttered pasta. And what could ever be wrong with that!
|By late October, Cardoon plants can reach nearly 4 or 5 feet tall, and able to handle light frosts. Traditionally, in Italy, it is a winter vegetable, often served at Christmas.|
|One must harvest the entire Cardoon plant before hard frost|
|Cardoons are easy, and even thought I did not fuss over mine, they still produced plants large enough for a|
harvest that has lasted 5 winter months.
|Peeled and cleaned cardoon stems must be cooked in acidulated water (lemon juice) until tender, about 30 minutes, not unlike artichokes.|
|After boiling cardoon stalks, they are cut into small slices, and then they can be prepared in any number of ways, but almost always ( and traditionally) prepared as a gratin, layered with Gruyere cheese, light cream and Parmesan.|
|As with artichokes, there is still a lot of waste. Nothing that the chickens and turkeys won't eat.|
If you are lucky, cardoons will over winter and then bloom with blossoms worthy of cutting.