Cardoons are a lesser known relative of artichokes that are most commonly grown for their thick fleshy leaf stems (think giant oversized celery but with the taste of an artichoke) rather than their flower buds. A tender perennial, they grow to about 4 feet in their vegetative state with flower stalks towering to over 8’. Native to the Mediterranean, cardoons are considered a specialty and prized in cuisines throughout the region. In Spain they are boiled and added to stews and sauces and are a staple of Christmas meals, in France they are used in gratins, in North Africa they are a common vegetable used in couscous dishes, and in Italy they are used to flavor Amari (bitter herbal liqueurs) and, raw, are the traditional accompaniment to the classic north Italian garlic/anchovy sauce bagna cauda (to name but a few uses of the beloved vegetable). Interestingly, the pistils of the flowers of cardoons are also widely used in Spain and Portugal as a primary source of vegetable rennet used in cheese making. Part of the attractiveness of the vegetable is its mild bitterness which must be tamed by several weeks of blanching (depriving of sunlight) in the field. While this is most commonly achieved by tying the plants with twine and wrapping the stems with plastic, cardboard, or old feed sacks, this particular cultivar is named for its old Piedmontese method of blanching under the soil. In late fall a shallow trench or fosse (grave) is dug next to each plant which is then, still attached its roots, tipped over horizontally into it and covered with soil to be left for about a month. Naturally the plant wants to grow back vertically towards the sun giving the swollen stalks a characteristic curve and their nickname gobbo or hunchback. In our area, we grow them as annuals waiting to sow until late may/early June, as earlier plantings will bolt by midsummer. A truly majestic plant and wonderful addition to any garden.
130-150 days (including a month of blanching). UO
Packet: 25 seeds