Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cardoons - A New vegetable for me!

According to Wikipedia, acclaimed chef Mario Batali calls the cardoon one of his favorite vegetables and says they have a "very sexy flavor". Of course this is not why I tried them this spring. But it might be why I keep growing them.

Like most "white bread" gardeners I hardly ever try a new vegetable. I know and grow my favorites and that is enough. In fact this one is so unusual you can't even buy it in the stores or markets in our cold zone 3 climate. I tried it because Ed and Mariann at E & M Woodland Gardens near Innisfail started growing them from seed for their Italian neighbors. Ed Wassenaar convinced me it would be a dramatic addition to my pots and that it might reach heights of 2 meters in a season. In warmer climates (Zone 7?) this plant overwinters easily and sometimes becomes a weed, but In Calgary this exotic Italian plant will not winter so I put this Artichoke relative in a big pot for its showy leaves thinking they would cause a drive-by sensation.

I only have one plant in one pot but neighbours and friends walking by all comment. Finally, one woman who has a winter home in Spain, stopped to tell me I should be making Cardoon risotto or soup with my plant. A single leaf stalk is similar to a giant celery stalk. Pick 1 or 2 stalks and strip off the leaflets along the petiole edges. Remove the woody veins before chopping and parboiling the leaf stalk and finally add it to any number of dishes. A search of the internet shows this is not just a pretty plant, it is a virtual wonder. It's amazing I never cooked it before. Tastes a lot like an artichoke without the warm climate needed to get the artichoke flowers. Wow, the longer I garden the more I learn.

Fast fact: Cardoon is Cynara cardunculus while artichoke is Cynara scolymus so they are closely related. They are in the daisy family but don't look that way until they bloom and look like giant thistles.

No comments: