Cardoon resembles a large bunch of wide flat celery. Popular in France and Italy, this vegetable is described as tasting like a cross between an artichoke, celery, and salsify. Also called “cardoni.”
The cardoon (Cynara cardunculus), also called the artichoke thistle, cardone, cardoni, carduni or cardi, is a thistle-like plant which is member of the aster family, Asteraceae; (or archaic: daisy family, Compositae). It is a naturally occurring variant of the same species as the globe artichoke, and has many cultivated varieties. It is native to the Mediterranean, where it was domesticated in ancient times.
While the flower buds can be eaten much as the artichoke, more often the stems are eaten after being braised in cooking liquid. Battered and fried, the stems are also traditionally served at St. Joseph’s altars in New Orleans.
The stalks, which look like large celery stalks, can be served steamed or braised. They have an artichoke-like flavor. Cardoons are available in the market only in the winter months. In the U.S.A., it is rarely found in stores, but available in farmers’ markets, where it is available through May, June, and July. The main root can also be boiled and served cold.
In the Abruzzi region of Italy, Christmas lunch is traditionally started with a soup of cardoons cooked in chicken broth with little meatballs (lamb or more rarely, beef), sometimes with the further addition of egg (which scrambles in the hot soup – called stracciatella) or fried chopped liver and heart.
Season: May to July
How to select: Look for grey-green stems with tight leaf formations without slimy or brown spots
How to store: Unwashed in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
How to prepare: To eat, you cook by baking, braising, roasting, or steaming
Matches well with: aioli, anchovies, bacon, basil, bread crumbs, butter, broth, goat cheese, chervil, cream, cumin, fennel, garlic, hollandaise sauce, lemon, mayonnaise, mushrooms, olive oil, onions, Parmesan cheese, parsley, pepper, salt, sausage, thyme, tomatoes, vinaigrette
Substitutions: cardoons = artichokes or braised celery