Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) Organic Ornamental Edible Heirloom Vegetable

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Cardoon ((Cynara cardunculus)

Annual

Height 3 to 5 ft

Cardoon vs Artichoke

How do you tell the difference between an artichoke and a cardoon?

It is believed that the wild cardoon is the source of both the globe artichoke, and the leafy cardoon. Cardoons are a member of the thistle family, and in appearance, are very similar to the globe artichoke and is sometimes referred to as  'artichoke thistle'. Cardoons are cultivated for their edible stems, while artichokes, (Cynarus cardunculus var. scolymus), are grown for their delicious and larger flower buds.  Artichoke leaves are less spikey - buds are more globular shaped, and have scooped leaves and less pronounced spines. 

Cardoons and artichokes:

  1. Possess silver colored foliage and violet thistle-like flowers
  2. Reach a height of 3 to 5 ft.
  3. Are considered to be varieties of the species 'cardunculus' and may form hybrids.
  4. Make fantastic additions to gardens as an architectural statement and visual interest, especially when the thistle-like buds ripen and sport upright purple fibrous tops.
  5. We grow cardoons here in our gardens - not just for edibles - but for their exceptional ornamental foliage, and the bees that are attracted to ripened buds.

Cardoon, also known as Cardone, is a traditional Mediterranean vegetable, considered a delicacy, by those who specialize in traditional French and Italian cuisine. The cardoon has a delicious edible stalk similar to that of celery with a mild artichoke flavor that is slightly more bitter than artichokes( depending on growing conditions) - it is not eaten raw. Once you’ve harvested, trimmed and peeled the stalks, it is recommended to blanch these in order to remove any bitterness. Adding a little lemon juice and some salt to the blanching water brightens up the cardoons’ delicate flavor. Cardoons can also be baked, fried and roasted. Swiss Chard stalks and celery are a perfect substitute for Cardoons.

Cardoons lend themselves to many wonderful dishes: gratins, bagna cauda (this is a traditional Italian (region of Piedmont in northwestern Italy) a dish of barely blanched cardoon stalks served with a garlicky dipping sauce), fritters, stews - gently braised on their own or with other vegetables- and soups. The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) of England, has awarded the statuesque cardoon its Awards of Garden Merit (AGM) as an ornamental plant; its website also says 'other common names: globe artichoke' as they are closely related.

  •  Full Sun
  • Well draining soil
  • Start seed indoors in 6 weeks before the last frost date. Plant seeds 1/ in deep in 6 in containers. Transplant after all risk of frost has passed.
  • Cardoon seed germinates best at 75°F (24°C). 
  • Spacing:  18 to 24 in between plants.
  • Tip: to obtain white, tender leaf stalks, blanch stalks for 4 weeks before harvest by wrapping with newspaper and securing with string. 
  • Mature cardoon plants should be divided; plant offsets in early spring, leaving plenty of space between for growth
  • Matures in about 120 days
  • Harvest: collect seed from the spent flower heads. Wear gloves and pluck away one side of the stiff outer leaves to reveal the interior downy tops with attached seeds. Let seeds dry out for a week in an open warm and airy place, and store for planting out.
  • Seed Count: 15