Is it a Triffid?
Just what is that thing?
None of the above. It’s a cardoon, or Cynara cardunculus, and it comes from Southern Europe and Africa, and we grow it here as a part of our efforts with the John Brown House.
|One We Started in late March in the Greenhouse - This was taken on June 26th|
Back in 2008 and 2009, after having been contacted by the local Historic Society about establishing an historic kitchen garden at the John Brown house, Bob Kessler and I did the initial research before presenting to the Master Gardeners and asking if there was enough interest to proceed. Obviously, there was, but during the beginning research phase, I came across references to growing Cardoon. I had never heard of it before, but the name itself was intriguing enough for me, so Dr. Doris Goldman, curator of the Renfrew Historic 4-square garden, and professional consultant for our efforts with the John Brown House was happy to provide seed, and give us the opportunity to try to grow the vegetable. It's a perennial plant, but for Zone 8 and above, so it's usually grown in our climate as an annual, not dissimilar to the way we grow tomatoes as annuals, even though botanically they're perennial.
|Cardoon Bloom - My Hand for Perspective|
|This was taken by Linda about a month ago|
|Another by Linda about two weeks ago|
When a cardoon is to be cooked, its heart, and the solid, not piped, stalks of the leaves are to be cut into pieces, about six inches long, and boiled like any other vegetable, in pure water, not salt and water, till they are tender. They are then to be carefully deprived of the slime and strings which will be found to cover them; and having thus been thoroughly cleaned, are to be plunged in cold water, where they must remain till they are wanted for the table; they are then taken out and heated with white sauce, marrow, or any other of the adjuncts recommended in cookery books. The process just described is for the purpose of rendering them white, and depriving them of a bitterness which is peculiar to them; if neglected, the cardoons will be black, not white, as well as disagreeable.Hmmm...Perhaps that explains why it fell out of favor.
- Fiering Burr Field and Garden Vegetables of America (Boston, 1868), p. 165
We'll be able to save seeds from this fella, which should give us up to seven years of viable seed to use for our efforts at Renfrew and the John Brown House.