Cardone (pronounced car-doan-ee), also known as Cardoon (pronounced car-dune), is a thistle native to the Mediterranean that grows in the wild with attractive purple flowers, but watch out for their prickly leaves and steams. Cardone is a sister to the artichoke, but instead of eating the immature flower bud, we eat the petiole, or leaf stalk. This vegetable looks like overgrown celery but it actually tastes like an artichoke heart. Cardone is not eaten raw; it is deep fried, boiled, or sautéed. Prior to cooking, the Cardone should be de-ribbed, washed and boiled to soften it.
A Brief History
The word for “thistle” in Latin is cardo. The word for “big thistle” became cardone in Italian and chardon in French. Cardone evolved around the rim of the Mediterranean Sea where people have eaten it for hundreds of years, but it was Roman gardeners who claim to be responsible for taming this thistle into a garden vegetable. As an Italian tradition, Cardone is often a part of a Christmas or Easter feast.
How to Select:
The best Cardone stalks and leaves are a grey-green color. They should feel heavy and moist. Choose straight rigid stalks.
How to Store:
Place Cardone in the crisper of your refrigerator wrapped in plastic. It should last about five to seven days in the refrigerator.
How to Prepare:
Rinse the stalks well, trim the ends and remove the ribs (strings) from the big stalks. You can do this by using a knife or peeler. Discard any discolored, outer stalks. Remove any of the small leaves that run up the center of the stalks. Slice into 1- to 2-inch lengths. To help remove the slightly bitter aftertaste, you can soak your Cardone pieces in salted water with a little lemon for an hour before cooking. Drain well; rinse. Finally, to soften Cardone, boil it in a pot for about 15- 20 minutes.
From here you can lightly flour and fry or use Cardone in stews and gratins.
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