Cardoon

How to Grow and Cook

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Also known as wild artichoke, of which the globe artichoke is a close relative the cardoon plant is a tall perennial grown for its celery-like leaf stems. Cardoons can be found growing wild throughout much of the Mediterranean and parts of North Africa as well as Britain and America where it was introduced in the sixteenth and seventeenth century respectively. Despite its attractive appearance it has always struggled to find mainstream approval as a vegetable/herb of merit. I can understand this to an extent because, like globe artichokes they are not easy to prepare for the home cook and for the novice it may seem like a lot of fuss for a fairly average result.


Cardoon

How to Grow

If the preparation and resulting taste of cardoons does not meet with your approval then the appearance of the plant in an herbaceous border surely will. I must confess to planting them as a means to a natural hedging as much as an edible crop. Cardoons do look striking in the garden, growing tall with jagged leaves and purple flowers they add an ancient elegance to any kitchen garden. It is a good idea to think long and hard about where you envisage your cardoon plant in your garden, it is going to grow and grow and if you are taken with the taste will require blanching in the late summer. They prefer rich, moist soil grown in a trench, which has been dug over and filled with well-rotted manure before the seeds have been sown. I sow cardoons in individual cells and allow plenty of room between each plant when planting out. If you are growing cardoons purely for eating then they will require blanching (shielding from light) four to five weeks before harvesting. Tie the stalks together and cover the stems with soil or wrap them with collars of newspaper, cardboard, polythene or plastic up to where the leaves begin. Cardoons are ready for blanching from late August until early September.

How to Cook

Treat the plants as you would for globe artichokes, the leaves and hearts are cooked in rapidly boiling water flavoured with salt and lemon juice to avoid oxidisation. They can be served cold as a starter with hollandaise or remoulade sauce or made into a soup. Follow recipes for globe artichokes.

Content and picture Miles Collins

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