Friday, September 8, 2017

Cardoon Cooking Info

Shortly it will be time to try our second sample harvest of cardoon. On the first attempt, the cardoon was too bitter to eat. Several readers have asked for more information about this veggie, but alas, I'm a complete novice. So I gleaned the Internet for some gems of knowledge. 

The part of the plant that is harvested is the central core of fairly soft, light grey-green stalks & leaves. This core is cut away from the plant and should feel heavy, be moist but not crisp (like celery). The cut end will discolor but will be discarded during preparation. Care should be taken not to bruise or damage the stalks. 

I discovered that new shoots will regrow from the cut stem that is left in the ground. About 5 shoots grew and I plan to thin them to 2 and see what happens. 

Once harvested, the stalks are bunched together, making the cardoon look somewhat like celery. The abundant leaves above the main stalk bunch can be cut off, since it is the stalks that will be eaten. Wrapped in a damp towel, it can be stored in the refrigerator and should last 5-7 days. 

To prepare it for cooking, cut off the bottom in order to free the stalks, remove any leaves and spines. Oh, I forgot to mention that the stalks have nasty spines along the outer edges. Yes, cardoon is in the thistle family. I'm growing a so called "thornless" variety, but it still has small thorns. I suppose the thorny varieties are truly thorny! The next step is to remove the strings of tough fiber from the outside of the stalks, kind of like the strings in celery but far more wicked. I notice that the stalks are not solid like celery, but semi-hollow inside. A vegetable peeler should work. Then cut the stalk into pieces (anywhere from 1" to 4" seems to be recommended) and immediately place in a bowl of water that has some lemon juice added. This is to prevent discoloration. Yet other cooks advise to soak the cardoon chunks in a bowl of water to which 2 tablespoons of white vinegar has been added. Soaking for 30 minutes is suppose to reduce bitterness. (I haven't tried this yet, so I don't know how well it works.) one other site I visited said to soak the chunks in salted water for an hour before cooking then rinse, and recommended 1 tablespoin of salt per 1/2 gallon of water. 

Now....the cooking: 

Some sites recommend parboiling in salted water prior to the actual cooking process. The water is drained off, then the cardoon chunks are cooled before cooking. After this step, there appears to be a variety of favorite ways of cooking cardoon. Some say to simmer in water, vegetable stock, or chicken broth until tender. One says to microwave in a bowl with a little water, until tender. Another suggests dredging the chunks in seasoned flour then dip into beaten egg before frying in olive oil. I gather from reading the many recipes, cardoon can be braised, sautéed, boiled in soups and stews, or battered & deep fried. The actual cooking time can vary, apparently due to the age of the stalks, and can be up to one hour before the stalks become tender. Ah-ha, perhaps that's one of the reasons behind the suggestion to parboil first. 

There seems to be a lot of prep work to do before cardoon hits the dinner plate. But just about every website said that it was worth it. Apparently the flavor is quite appealing, along the lines of artichokes. 


  1. I've recently been reading how cardoon is used as a vegetable rennet for cheesemaking. I didn't realize it was so complicated to cook! I'm guessing that once you develop a good routine for it, you won't think it so much work!

  2. Cardoon is proving to be quite a bit of work compared to other veggies I grow. Plus it takes up a lot of space. I don't think I'll be growing this as a serious crop. Maybe just a few plants here and there.......IF I can make it edible, the jury is still out on that one.