Good Food Blog
A prickly issuePosted at 12:02PM, 01 February 2010 by Carol Wilson - Food writer
There isn't a huge variety of British vegetables available at this time of year, but recently at my local farmers' market I came across cardoons. I'd heard of them but had never eaten them, so bought some to try.
Related to the globe artichoke, the cardoon is an edible thistle with pale green to white ribbed leaf stalks (which look like giant celery). It's grown in French gardens as an ornamental plant due to its height (around 180cm), dramatic jagged silvery foliage and purple-blue flowers, which are also edible.
In Britain, cardoons are rarely eaten, but in the Haute-Savoie region of France they're specially cultivated and are very popular. They're eaten raw in salads or fried in batter, baked and served with olive oil or a sauce, made into soups and served au gratin.
The flavour is a slightly spicy cross between artichoke and celery
The flavour is a slightly spicy cross between artichoke and celery with a hint of bitterness and is well suited to winter cooking. I think cardoons are best served on their own rather than mixed with other vegetables. When buying, look for strong fresh leaves and firm stalks. They are at their best when fresh, but will keep in the fridge for a day or two if wrapped in damp kitchen towel or in a loose plastic bag.
Only the inner stalks and firm hearts are edible - the prickly leaves and very tough outer stalks should be discarded. Strip the inner stalks of any bruised or stringy parts - sometimes this has already been done by the market holder or shopkeeper. Once the stalks are cut they darken quickly (like artichokes), so put them into a bowl of water with a little lemon juice to avoid discolouration. Simmer pieces in a little salted water for several minutes before frying or using in a gratin or soup. Serving cardoons with butter, creamy sauces and grated cheese complements their slight bitterness.
I roasted my cardoons. After blanching and draining well, I put them in a roasting tin and tossed them with a little salt, pepper and olive oil. Roasted in a moderate oven for about 40 minutes until golden-brown and tender, they made a delicious accompaniment to roast chicken.
Any other cardoon recipes?