Monday, 28 April 2008


Today has been an interesting introduction to the cardoon, for Deb and I. A while ago we found a whole article about them on A Postcard from Paris. Deb has been growing one since spring and, after tying up the stems for a few weeks, to blanch them, she decided it was time to harvest it. It was a massive thing which Deb single-handedly wrestled to the ground, while I took the photos. It looked vicious but the spiky bits were not actually sharp or prickly but I was glad her hefty knife was between me and it! The stems are thick and celery-like so we tried a little bit raw from the very heart and it seemed quite nice...for a minute...and then it became incredibly bitter. Oh well, raw artichokes taste the same so with a bit of cooking it should be OK, we decided.
I brought some home and proceeded to wash it, de-string it (like coarse celery) and then boil it briefly. Some of the stems have a kind of thread inside, like vegetable spaghetti, and this is delicious and crunchy, raw. The stems were as long as or even longer than your arm so I only cooked a fraction of it tonight, after cutting it up enough to get it in the saucepan. Then I drained it and threw it in some olive oil, after cooking some capsicums and yellow squash in the same pan before, put the lid on and let it steam and saute gently for a while. Then I threw the capsicums, squash and some blanched beans back in with the cardoon, added a bit of garlic, pepper and a dash of parsley and lemon juice. By this time I was very hungry and those of you who know me will know how quickly hungry turns to ravenous, with me! Along with the steamed potato I had cooked, I served myself 2 pieces of grilled chicken to assuage the hunger as I had been waiting for Roger but he rang to say he was still on the way home.

Just as I was about to sit down and savour the delights that come with the first time you taste something, I remembered a book I had bought several years ago, called 'Cooking and Travelling in South-West France' by Australian cook Stephanie Alexander. Since I was eating alone I thought I would look through this beautiful book while I was having dinner, for no other reason than I had received some emails from someone who lives there and I am dying to go there. With a forkful of cardoon in one hand , I opened the book to the introduction and the very first thing I read was "In the countryside the rhythm of daily life is important and valued. The formal greetings and thank-yous, the shopkeeper's advice on how best to cook cardoons......." Is that co-incidence or what? Either my life is meant to include cardoons from here on or I should rush off to France immediately or both!

Anyway, the cardoon was deliciously fragrant and just like a perfect artichoke but a lot easier to eat. Considering how much you get from 1 plant I would recommend we each grow 1 or 2 at most unless you are going to feed the masses. I hope it stores OK in the fridge, uncooked. The part that Deb left in the ground is supposed to resprout and flower so I look forward to seeing the cardoon reproduce - maybe it forms a clump too, like artichokes, I guess we will have to wait and see. But it is a winner for me!

1 comment:

Veggie Gnome said...

Great to hear that it is worth growing cardoon. I have a little seedling (or two?) in a pot and it's ready to be planted out. Just have to find the right spot for it.

That seedling is a real fighter. It was ready to be planted out last spring and I plain didn't have the time and ready spot then. It survived our extreme summer and still looks good. Can't wait now to see it in the ground.