How to grow cardoon?

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Monday – May 13, 2013

From: Boise, ID
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of artichoke-like plant in Idaho
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

There is a plant/weed growing in the front yard, my mom says it is a flower I say a weed. It looks a lot like an open artichoke and is the same size. It is green except on the tips where it is deep purple. I have searched high and low and can’t figure out what it is. Please help! Thank you

ANSWER:

Cynara scolymus, the edible globe artichoke, is a native of the Mediterranean and introduced here as a food plant. Here are more photos and information from Plants for a Future. It is a type of thistle. There is also Cynara cardunculus (cardoon), its wild introduced relative. Here are more photos and information from Plants for a Future.

There are other thistles that occur in Idaho. The native ones in the genus Cirsium are:

Cirsium brevistylum (Clustered thistle) and here are photos of the plant from CalPhotos University of California-Berkeley.

Cirsium canescens (Prairie thistle)

Cirsium edule (Edible thistle)

Cirsium flodmanii (Flodman’s thistle)

Cirsium foliosum (Elk thistle)

Cirsium scariosum (Meadow thistle) and here are photos from Southwest Colorado Wildflowers.

There are four thistles that are classified as noxious weeds in Idaho. They are Cirsium arvense (Canada thistle), Carduus nutans (musk thistle), Onopordum acanthium (Scotch thistle), and Centaurea solstitialis (Yellow starthistle)—all are Eurasian imports.

Here are more photos and information on: Canada thistle from the National Park Service, Musk thistle from Plant Conservation Alliance’s Alien Plant Working Group “Least Wanted”. and Scotch thistle from Texas Invasives.

Perhaps your flower/weed is one of the native or introduced thistles. If you have photographs of it and don’t recognize it in the ones I’ve suggested above, please visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that accept photos of plants for identification.

Now, whether it is a wildflower or a weed is up to individual interpretation—one person’s weed is another’s wildflower!

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Cardoons and artichokes? They all boil down to the same thing

My personal rule of thumb is that if I see Cynara in a flower bed, it’s a cardoon. If it’s in a veg plot, it’s a globe artichoke, but this is hardly a satisfactory state of affairs.

So I was pleased to see a paper in the journal Annals of Botany, from a team of Italian biologists, that aims to find out what is going on.

For a start, they have no truck with the idea of two species; there’s the cultivated cardoon and artichoke, and there’s a wild cardoon, but they’re all one species: C. cardunculus. Conventional wisdom says there are two wild cardoons: the eastern variety, small and rather spiny, in Greece, Italy, France and north Africa; and the western variety, larger and less spiny, in Spain and Portugal.

The solution was to look at the DNA of these plants, so that’s what they did. The results were complicated in detail, but simple enough in broad outline. The eastern wild cardoon is genetically distinct and is clearly the original wild plant. The researchers conclude that the whole complex probably originated in Sicily.

The cultivated cardoon and artichoke were both derived from this plant long ago, with the domestication of the artichoke well under way by Roman times. Artichokes are traditionally propagated vegetatively, with numerous varieties selected over the centuries, varying from small and early-flowering to larger and late-flowering.

In Italy in particular, there are many varieties, often named after localities, and with some distinguishing feature, such as head colour (e.g. ‘Bianco di Ostuni’ and ‘Nero di Castrignano’).

The cardoon was domesticated later and is closer in appearance to the wild species. Unlike the artichoke, it is traditionally raised from seed.

Cultivated cardoons and wild, western cardoons are genetically almost identical, and it seems very likely that the western cardoon is an escape from cultivation, and that the original wild cardoon was an exclusively eastern Mediterranean plant.

Now we know what all these plants are, we can continue to enjoy them in the garden.

Cardoons are one of the most striking ornamental plants you can grow, and few plants are more attractive to bees. I’ve never met anyone who has tried eating them, and anyway it almost seems a waste of such an attractive plant. On the other hand, few vegetables are as delicious (in my opinion) as globe artichokes. Good for you, too, they’re packed with antioxidant compounds such as polyphenols and flavonoids. If you fancy growing your own, it’s probably worth growing a named, vegetatively propagated variety, which will almost certainly be better than a plant grown from seed. Or you could get on a plane to Brindisi and try the real thing. Hard to imagine a better place to eat a ‘Bianco di Ostuni’ than in Ostuni itself.

Ken Thompson is a plant biologist with a keen interest in the science of gardening. He writes and lectures extensively and has written five gardening books, including Compost and No Nettles Required. His latest book is Where do Camels Belong? The Story and Science of Invasive Species.

The History of Artichokes

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The globe artichoke
(Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus)
is a variety of a species of thistle. It is at is eating prime as an immature flower. The largest globe is on top of the plant and the smaller ones grow beneath.

The edible matter are buds that form within the flower heads before the flowers come into bloom about 6 months after planting. The buds go away or change to a coarse, barely edible form when the flower blooms.

The uncultivated or wild variety of the species is called a cardoon.

It is a perennial plant native to the Mediterranean region.

Where did the Artichokes originate?

Artichokes are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables. Historians generally agree that artichokes started somewhere in the Mediterranean some say it was sicily and some have said that they originated on in Northern Africa. The Artichoke is actually an improved version of the Cardoon which is smaller and more prickly. The Cardoon buds were eaten but their stems were often more desirable. . They began cultivating them as early as the 5th century BC. They traveled up through Italy. The Dutch introduced them to England. The French brought them to Louisiana and Italian immigrants brought them to California. (courtesy of Ocean Mist Farms)

How did the artichoke get it’s name?

As with many foods that have endured for centuries the name of the Artichoke has evolved from several words.
The word choke is not a botanical term it is thought to have evolved in a folk sort of way from an Italian word that sounds like choke.

This is from my favorite , …..Artichoke comes from the 1530s, from articiocco , Northern Italian variant of Italian arcicioffo , from Old Spanish alcarchofa , from Arabic al-hursufa “artichoke.” The Northern Italian variation probably is from influence of ciocco meaning “stump.” The plant looks something like a stump and the “arti – was a version of our prefix “arch,” meaning “high” (and the artichoke plant does have a big stumpy mass up high).

“Folk etymology” has twisted the word in English; the ending is probably influenced by choke , and early forms of the word in English include archecokk, hortichock, artychough, hartichoake . The plant was known in Italy by 1450s, brought to Florence from Naples in 1466, and introduced in England in the reign of Henry VIII. French artichaut (16c.), German Artischocke (16c.) both are also from Italian.

Another fun fact about the name of the artichoke is it’s Genus name Cynara cardunculus

According to an ancient Agean (Greek) legend there was once a woman of incredible beauty … “Zeus grew bored with the women on Mount Olympus and decided to go slumming on Earth. He met a sexy Greek girl named Cynara, but she grew tired of him and left. So Zeus hurled a lightning bolt at Cynara and turned her into an artichoke.”
Fun Flower Facts

“The Artichoke Goddess” a Mural in Castroville, CA. I am not sure I really understand the mural but am looking for any ideas.

What kind of a plant is an Artichoke?

As I mentioned in the begriming the artichoke is a member of the thistle family. The leaves of the artichoke have thorns on them so watch out! These leaf part of the bud or globe is called a bract in botanical terms and is different than a leaf or petal .

According to Sam Dean on the Bon Appetit site Aristotle called artichoke a cactus or “Kaktos” Read more about this here .

Where how do they Grow?
Artichokes are grown in southern Europe, North Africa, in certain countries of South America, and in the United States with almost all the crop coming from Monterey county California.

The Artichoke takes about 6 months for the buds to be ready to eat. They can be harvested as many as 30 times in a season. The peak season for artichokes is Spring but they can be harvested through the summer months and another peak season in early autumn.

When you drive into Castroville you see a sign that says Artichoke capital of the world. Back early in 1920’s landowner Andrew Molera was approached by Italian immigrants to grow artichokes. The idea was encouraging because they were very expensive and looked like he could get better money than his current crop sugar beets. The loamy, well drained soil, and cool foggy summers was a good match for this crop.

Castroville is now home to two major packers and the country’s only artichoke processing plant, grows 75 percent of the state’s artichokes

Ocean Mist Farms’ Artichokes Featured on Food Tech

Video of Artichoke harvest by Ocean Mist Farms website

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The Artichoke Wars of 1935

Ciro “The Artichoke King” Terranova

(July 1888 − February 20, 1938)
Ciro “The Artichoke King” Terranova was a New York City gangster and one time underboss of the Morello crime family.

Ciro earned his nickname, “the Artichoke King”, by purchasing artichokes at $6.00 a crate from California, then selling them in New York at a 30-40% profit. Ciro’s violent reputation preceded him, frightening vegetable sellers into buying them. Even the fields back in California were hacked down in the middle of the night to scare bring fear to those farmers and distributors that didn’t co operate.

Taking action These “artichoke wars” led Mayor Fiorello La Guardia one of New York’s famous Mayors and who they named the airport after was a strong leader against the Mafia. He took action and appeared at The Bronx Terminal Market to institute a city-wide ban on the sale, display, and possession of artichokes,

In his words: “A racketeer in artichokes is no different than a racketeer in slot machines.”

. When prices went down, the ban was lifted In 1936,

`~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Marylin Monroe Artichoke Queen

Marylin Monroe
Crowned Artichoke Queen.

In 1948 Marylin Monroe probably seeking any notoriety back them before she was a starlet was the official Artichoke queen for the festival that still is celebrated today.

More about the Castroville Artichoke Festival

Monterey Penensilu Blogspot

Food Timeline , Artichokes

What’s Cooking in America , (artichokes)

Via Magazine

Cardoon is a tender perennial vegetable grown as an annual. Sow or transplant cardoon into the garden 3 to 4 weeks after the average last frost date in spring. Start cardoon from seed indoors 6 weeks before transplanting it into the garden. Cardoon, which is grown for its young leaf-stalks, will be ready for harvest 120 to 150 days after planting.

Description. Cardoon looks like a cross between burdock and celery. It is grown for its young leaf-stalks which are blanched and eaten like celery. Cardoon has heavy, gray-green, fuzzy leaves that are deeply cut leaves and a heavy, bristled flower head. Cardoon is a member of the artichoke family and can grow up to 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide.

Yield. Plant 1 or 2 cardoons for each household member.

Planting Cardoon

Site. Grow cardoon in full sun; cardoon will tolerate partial shade. Plant cardoon in well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Prepare beds in advance with aged compost. Cardoon prefers a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0.

Planting time. Cardoon is a tender perennial vegetable grown as an annual. It is best grown from transplants set in the garden 3 to 4 weeks after the average last frost date in spring. Start cardoon from seed indoors 6 weeks before transplanting. It germinates best at 75°F. Cardoon will be ready for harvest about 120 days after planting.

Planting and spacing. Sow cardoon seed ¼ inch deep. Thin cardoon from 18 to 24 inches apart. Space rows 36 to 48 inches apart.

Companion plants. Perennial vegetables such as asparagus; not root vegetables or vines.

Container growing. Cardoons do not grow well in containers. Chose a 5-gallon container to grow one cardoon.

Cardoon is grown for its young leaf-stalks which are blanched and eaten like celery.

Caring for Cardoon

Water and feeding. Evenly water cardoon but allow plants to dry out between watering.

Add aged compost to planting beds before planting and again at midseason.

Care. Cardoon is commonly blanched to improve the flavor and to make it more tender. About 3 to 4 weeks before harvest, when the plant is 3 feet tall, tie the leaves together in a bunch and wrap paper or burlap around the stems to about 18 inches high, or hill up soil around the stems.

Pests. Aphids can attack cardoon. Pinch out infested foliage or spay aphids off plants with a blast of water.

Diseases. Cardoon has no serious disease problems.

Steamed cardoon

Harvesting and Storing Cardoon

Harvest. Cardoon will be ready for harvest 4 to 6 weeks after blanching. Cut stalks off at ground level and trim away the leaves.

Storing and preserving. Cardoon stalks will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks. Wrap them in paper or plastic. Cardoon can be frozen, canned, or dried; handle it like celery.

Cardoon Varieties to Grow

Varieties. ‘Large Smooth’; ‘Large Smooth Spanish’; ‘Ivory White Smooth’. Grow any variety available in your area.

Common name. Cardoon

Botanical name. Cynara cardunculus

Origin. Europe

Grow 80 vegetables: THE KITCHEN GARDEN GROWERS’ GUIDE

How to grow Cardoons – article first published in Grow Your Own Magazine May 2015 growfruitandveg.co.uk

Cardoons are fantastic edible, ornamental and bee friendly plants. I’m obsessed with resurrecting long forgotten varieties and started growing Cardoons 6 years ago after discovering they were stars of the vegetable garden in Britain right up to Victorian times. I thought it was time for these architectural edimentals to make a re-appearance.

Cardoons are a delicacy eaten widely in Italy and France but very rarely in this country. I love to grow some of the Italian varieties such as Distell Gobbi Di Nizza and Bianco Avorio which produce very impressive and tasty specimens with the added bonus of a long sowing window from March right through to June. In appearance they share many characteristics with their close cousin the Globe Artichoke, having attractive green leaves with a dusting of silvery grey. Cardoons are grown for their edible creamy stems, ridged like celery stalks rather than their flower buds. Their leaves can reach 3ft or more in length and in summer they throw up a profusion of vivid purple thistle flowers that tower above head height.

How to grow Cardoons

You can start Cardoons off one seed to a single pot indoors from as early as February or sow direct outside from April to June once the soil has warmed up. They need a final spacing of about 75-90cm and need to be kept well watered for the first few months. Mediterranean in heritage, they a love a sunny site in well drained soil, but do consider their mature size when planting and the shade they create. Being perennials they seem to withstand all that nature can throw at them and in my experience suffer few pests. They are also remarkably hardy and once established return year after year without any problem.
To encourage good stems for eating it is good practice to remove the flower heads as they appear. What I tend to do is grow some plants for eating and some plants for the bees, allowing some to continue to flower well into the autumn. This way you get to see the beauty of the plants in their full glory as well as have some for harvesting in winter.

I’m a massive fan of plants that keep on giving and can feed you year after year with just a small amount of attention. Having some perennial vegetables mixed in with your annual plantings gives you harvests at different times and Cardoons are ready when there is not much to pick in the vegetable garden.

In October through to mid November you need to blanch the Cardoons by wrapping layers of cardboard or sacking around the stems and tying it up with string leaving the fronds of leaves poking out of the top. This helps to make the stems tender and removes the bitterness before harvesting. 3-4 weeks of blanching is usually enough and then you can cut individual stems for eating or slice the whole plant at its base like a monster head of celery leaving the root to re-sprout in the spring.

Perhaps Cardoons fell out of favour because they take a little bit of preparation in the kitchen. Taste the delicious smokey, earthy artichoke-yness of Cardoons on a cold winter’s night and you will become an instant convert! Almost all Cardoon dishes start of with removing the leaves from the stems, peeling off any stringy bits from the ridged outer side and then placing in water with a dash of vinegar or squeeze of lemon juice. This stops the stems from turning brown and helps to sweeten the flavour. Cut into batons, simmer in a pan of water until tender and your Cardoons are then ready to use in a variety of ways. One of my favourite dishes is a bubbling Cardoon and Stilton gratin but they are also superb fried with crispy coatings.

An exquisite Globe Artichoke flower, a close cousin of the Cardoon. Globe Artichokes were originally bred from wild cardoons.Bees absolutely love Cardoon flowers

A little research reveals that while cardoons were a common sight in colonial Americans’ vegetable gardens, for reasons no one seems able to explain they’ve fallen out of favor since then. They’re still fairly common in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, but they are harder to find in the U.S.

The truth is, cardoons aren’t a terribly practical plant–they need a long, cool but not cold growing season (likely why their popularity continues in Mediterranean climates) and a fair amount of space. Because we’re an educational garden, we grow them mostly so that we can tell their story.

They’re artichoke cousins, and while I’ve read that cardoon flowers can be eaten in much the same way that artichokes can, the ones I’ve seen look forbiddingly spiny. The part that’s commonly eaten is the stem of the cardoon–in other words, of the six feet of our cardoon plants, only the bottom foot or so will be edible. We wrap that part in newspaper because blanching it–preventing it from photosynthesizing–keeps it tender and white.

Perhaps the reason I’ve fallen in love with our cardoons is their unexpectedness: the ones in the garden now are actually last year’s cardoons, which mysteriously managed to survive a New England winter. That’s why they’re so tall, and why we’re not sure how they’ll taste. Last year’s cardoons were delicious, though, with a flavor something like artichokes.

If you can find them in a farmers’ market near you, you can braise them, or blanch them and serve them with a vinaigrette, or puree them to make soup. Blanched, they might make a lovely topping for bruschetta, with some lemon and herbs. Or try this simple recipe, adopted from Chez Panisse.

(A side note on cardoons: they are also one of the few vegetable materials–thistles are another–that can curdle milk. In other words, you can use cardoons instead of rennet in the cheesemaking process. Since rennet is made out of the stomachs of cows, goats, or sheep, using cardoons or thistles instead is the only way to make a truly vegetarian cheese. In Portugal and Spain, cardoons are used to make sheep and goats milk cheeses–they can’t be used with cows milk, as they turn it bitter.)

Recipes that use cardoons
Cardoons With Almond Sauce
Cardoons With Anchovy Vinaigrette

For more on how Europeans use cardoons, click here.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to [email protected]

Anastatia Curley is the former Communications Coordinator of the Yale Sustainable Food Project. Connect

Artichoke Thistle Info: Learn About Growing Cardoon Plants

Considered by some to be just an invasive weed and by others as a culinary delight, cardoon plants are a member of the thistle family, and in appearance, are very similar to the globe artichoke; indeed it is also referred to as the artichoke thistle.

So what is cardoon — weed or useful medicinal or edible plant? Growing cardoon attains a height of up to 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide at maturity, depending upon the cultivar. Large spiny perennials, cardoon plants flower from August to September and its flower buds may be eaten just as the artichoke’s are.

Artichoke Thistle Info

Native to the Mediterranean, cardoon plants (Cynara cardunculus) are now found in dry grassy areas of California and Australia, where it is considered a weed. Originally cultivated in Southern Europe as a vegetable, growing cardoon was brought to the American kitchen garden by the Quakers in the early 1790’s.

Today, cardoon plants are grown for their ornamental properties, such as the silvery grey, serrated foliage and bright purple flowers. The architectural drama of the foliage provides year round interest in herb garden and along borders. The vibrant

blooms are also great attractors of bees and butterflies, which pollinate the hermaphroditic flowers.

The “How Tos” of Cardoon Planting

Cardoon planting should occur via seed indoors in late winter or early spring, and seedlings may be transplanted outside after the danger of frost has passed. Mature cardoon plants should be divided and cardoon planting of the offsets accomplished in early spring, leaving plenty of space between for growth.

Although cardoons can grow in nutritionally poor soil (highly acidic or alkaline), they prefer full sun and deep, rich soil. As mentioned, they can be divided or planted by seed propagation. Cardoon seeds are viable for around seven years or so once they ripen from September to October and are collected.

Harvesting Cardoon

Other artichoke thistle info reinforces the cardoon size; it is much larger and hardier than globe artichokes. While some people eat the tender flower buds, most folks eat the fleshy, thick leaf stalks, which require plentiful irrigation for healthy growth.

When harvesting cardoon leaf stalks, they need to be blanched first. Strangely, this is done by tying the plant into a bundle, wrapping with straw and then mounded with soil and left for one month.

Cardoon plants being harvested for culinary purposes are treated as annuals and are harvested during the winter months – in areas of mild winters, from November to February and then re-sowed in early spring.

The tender leaves and stalks can be cooked or eaten fresh in salads while the blanched portions are used like celery in stews and soups.

The wild cardoon’s stem is covered with small, almost invisible spines that can be quite painful, so gloves are useful when attempting to harvest. However, a mostly spineless cultivated variety has been bred for the home gardener.

Other Uses for Cardoon Plants

Beyond its edibility, growing cardoon may also be used as a medicinal plant. Some people say it has mild laxative qualities. It also contains cynarin, which has cholesterol-lowering effects, although most cynarin is garnered from the globe artichoke due to its comparative ease of cultivation.

Bio-diesel fuel research is now focusing on cardoon plants as a source of alternate oil processed from its seeds.

Cardoon: A Vegetable with Built-In Armor

Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.

Cardoons look like prehistoric celery (although the two aren’t really related), taste like artichoke hearts, and take a bit of work to prep — but once you do, you can work them into meals, all week long.

Shop the Story

If you’re unfamiliar with cardoons, you probably know one of their cousins. They belong to the expansive sunflower family (along with Jerusalem artichokes and dandelions), and are very closely related to artichokes — the two look and taste very similar. The chief difference? Artichokes are grown for their flower buds, while cardoons are grown for their leaf petioles (what we think of as stems or stalks), and they can get intense. They have small spines that can be quite spiky — so be careful when you prep!

In addition to its built-in armor, the cardoon has a few other tricks up its sleeve (stalk?). For one, the purple stamens of the cardoon flower can be used to make vegetarian rennet for cheese, and cardoons are also used as ornamental plants. What we think of as a beautiful Italian vegetable is even considered a troublesome weed in some areas, as it can spread quickly once planted.

What to Look For
Look for cardoons at your local farmers market, upscale grocery stores, or Italian markets. Though cardoons are often thought of as a winter vegetable, you should still be able to find them into early summer. Pick cardoons that feel firm — they won’t be as firm as celery, but avoid stalks that are soft and spongey. The stalks are often blanched (horticulturally blanched, not briefly-boiled blanched) for a few weeks before harvesting to encourage paler, less bitter stalks — so look for lightly colored stalks and avoid any that are browning or wilting.

More: Find a farmers market near you on Real Time Farms.

How to Store and Prep
If you store your cardoons in a plastic bag in the fridge, they’ll keep for about a week. When it comes time to prep, get ready — like artichokes, cardoons make you work to get to the good stuff. As Deborah Madison says, they are a formidable vegetable; you’ll need to do a lot of trimming (1) and peeling. (Stay tuned for the full step-by-step rundown tomorrow.) Cardoons will discolor when exposed to the air, so most preparations call for placing the cut pieces into an acidulated water bath (2). (Although if you’re looking to cut out a step, skip the water bath — Elizabeth Schneider finds that the color evens out after cooking.)

How to Use
In Europe, cardoons are served raw as a classic vegetable dipper for bagna cauda, but unless you get lucky, the cardoons you find here will probably be too bitter to eat raw. Many recipes even call for parboiling the cardoons to remove some of their bitterness. Try them simmered in broth, fried, or added to a stew. Or use them in a risotto, gratin, or a tagine. Let us know how you like to use cardoons, and then try new recipes all week long:

Thursday: Cardoons with Anchovy Garlic Sauce
Friday: Crunchy Cardoons
Saturday: Savory Cardoon Flan
Sunday: Cardoon Soup with Black Truffle Carpaccio
Monday: Ramp-ed up Cardoons
Tuesday: Honeyed Cardoons with Pine Nuts and Thyme
Wednesday: Cardoon Gratin

Photos by James Ransom

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