So what is cardoon — weed or useful medicinal or edible plant? Growing cardoon attains a height of up to 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide at maturity, depending upon the cultivar. Large spiny perennials, cardoon plants flower from August to September and its flower buds may be eaten just as the artichoke’s are. Native to the Mediterranean, cardoon plants (Cynara cardunculus) are now found in dry grassy areas of California and Australia, where it is considered a weed. Originally cultivated in Southern Europe as a vegetable, growing cardoon was brought to the American kitchen garden by the Quakers in the early 1790’s.
Today, cardoon plants are grown for their ornamental properties, such as the silvery grey serrated foliage and bright purple flowers. The architectural drama of the foliage provides year round interest in herb garden and along borders. The vibrant blooms are also great attractors of bees and butterflies , which pollinate the hermaphroditic flowers.
Harvesting Cardoon Other artichoke thistle info reinforces the cardoon size; it is much larger and hardier than globe artichokes. While some people eat the tender flower buds, most folks eat the fleshy, thick leaf stalks, which require plentiful irrigation for healthy growth. When harvesting cardoon leaf stalks, they need to be blanched first. Strangely, this is done by tying the plant into a bundle, wrapping with straw and then mounded with soil and left for one month. Cardoon plants being harvested for culinary purposes are treated as annuals and are harvested during the winter months. The tender leaves and stalks can be cooked or eaten fresh in salads while the blanched portions are used like celery in stews and soups. So what do you think? Any interest for next year? Let me know. Till next time, this is Becky Litterer from Becky's Greenhouse, Dougherty, Iowa