The centerpiece of our garden this year has been the cardoon. It took off growing before anything else and was head-high by end of April. Then it put out fluffy magenta thistle-like flowers. After that it died back and was dormant for most of the summer, as the tomatoes, potatoes, kale, lettuce, sunflowers, peppers and edamame took over. Then as we moved into cooler autumn days, the cardoon has sprung up and is once again the biggest thing in the garden.

Cardoon is a large vegetable similar to Artichoke

Cardoon

What is a cardoon? It’s not very common here in the U.S., but is a popular vegetable in Italy. The leaves are edible — after peeling off the spines and boiling to “soften” the very bitter taste. After that, cardoon tastes a lot like artichoke. Chef Mario Batali describes cardoon as having a “very sexy flavor.”

We’ve used it in casseroles and lasagna, and are looking for more recipes. One cardoon is a lot of vegetable matter, so we don’t end up eating much of it. We didn’t know much about it when we planted it last year (from a start that was only 4 inches tall), but we’ve found out more about how to prepare and cook cardoon, and are pleased that, in our climate at least, it appears to be a perennial.

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