The cardoon was once
in the recommended vegetable lists, but it is
a rarity nowadays. This is not really surprising
– it takes both trouble and space to grow,
and the end-product is not particularly exciting
as a vegetable. If, however, the unusual appeals
to you or if you are interested in the flavours
of the past, cardoons are worth a trial. The thistle-like
plants grow up to 6ft (180cm) tall and are more
suited to the back of the herbaceous border than
the vegetable plot.
Sow seeds in April in groups of 3 about 2in (5cm)
deep – leave 2ft between the groups. Thin
to a single seedling at each station and water
copiously during summer. In September tie the
leaves into a bush and blanch as for celery. Dig
up the plants after 5 weeks, cut off the roots
and remove the outer leaves.
Cardoon produces flower-heads which look like
small globe artichokes but it is grown for its
blanched stems. Treat as tough and stringy celery.
It cannot be eaten raw and should be cooked by
first cutting into pieces, stripping off the outer
strings and then boiling until tender –
at least 30 minutes.