After glancing at this photo, I’m sure that the last thing on your mind is, “Yum, a prickly thistle. I wonder how that might taste in, hhmmm, let’s say an au gratin or deep-fried?" Many people would say delicious. In fact, the cardoon has been popular in the Mediterranean as far back as Greek & Roman times & has sustained its popularity there through medieval times into modern cuisine. Although not super common outside of its native region until recently, this cousin of the more familiar artichoke has enjoyed a comeback lately in contemporary gastronomy all over the world.
The cardoon (Cynara cardunculus), also called the artichoke thistle, cardone, cardoni, carduni or cardi, is a thistle-like plant which is a member of the Aster family. Unlike the artichoke, it is the stems of the plant that are used not the flowers. Resembling a celery stalk in texture & having an artichoke-like flavor, it is typically served steamed or braised. It is important to remember to peel off the outer layer to ensure tenderness & sweetness.
Considered a winter vegetable, the cardoon is rarely found in your local supermarket, but can sometimes be seen at farmers’ markets through spring. As the weather becomes warmer, however, note that the stalks can become bitter & woody.
Where am I going with all of this? Yep, we grow these up at the ranch, & I’ll be sending some down to the shop on Wednesday with Fresh From The Ranch. So if you're feeling a little more adventurous this week in your culinary endeavors, stop by & pick some up.