Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) is known for its edible leaves whereas its relative the globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus) is famous for its edible flowers. I thought it would be perfect to make a dish using the unusual cardoon leaves, and even better timing since my parents would be in town to share the culinary adventure with Eldon and me.
I did a little research how best to prepare the cardoon. Looking at the 4-foot long leaves my plants possess, plus the abundance of hairs and spines--I wasn't about to just cut off some leaves and saute them like Swiss chard. And I didn't have a pan big enough for one leaf.
I came across many recipes for "bagna cauda"--literally "hot bath"--a sort of Italian fondue typically made with olive oil, butter, garlic and sometimes cream. The recipes called for "stalks." Did they mean leaf of flower stalks?
Then I saw a picture of their cardoon. It looked like a feathery bunch of celery. By the size of these leaves, my guess is they were harvested at the end of spring.
Have you seen my cardoon?
Since mid-summer, my cardoon has been towering over my garden with purple artichoke-like flowers. The stalks are at least 8 feet tall; adding great structure to the garden. These plants were started from seed two years ago and have flowered both years. They completely died back in the winter, survived a weeks' worth of snow, and sprouted again this spring. My garden is warmer in general, except for the middle of winter when we have 8 hours of daylight. This may be why the cardoon, a Mediterranean native, comes back every year. I don't fertilize them and the soil is quick draining.
This time, I'm too late in my harvest. I plan on next year to start another round of cardoon later in the season and make "bagna cauda" for the first fall rain. I'd love to try any recipes you send my way.