Cardoon

Cynara cardunculus is a member of the Asteraceae (sunflower) family.

Varieties include Plein Blanc Inorme, and Italian Dwarf.

Closely related to the artichoke, cardoon is grown for its edible leaf petioles rather than for the undeveloped flower buds. The thistle-like plant exhibits vigorous growth reaching a height of 3-5 feet and spreads over an area 6 feet in diameter. It is a perennial plant native to and widely grown in the Mediterranean region.

Market information

Marketing. Looks like a large waxy celery. Use chopped up. Pretty bland flavor except its alkaloids can impart a rather significant bitter flavor.

Use. Young tender leaves, leaf petioles and undeveloped tender flower stalks are eaten. Grown during warm periods these tissues can become strongly flavored. A popular way to prepare it is to cook the young small leaves and tender stalks together. Among many uses it can flavor soups, be served chilled with a vinaigrette dressing or prepared hot and topped with a cream sauce. Cardoon may also be eaten raw and uncooked in salads. It is a delicacy called 'Cardoni' in some parts of Italy.

Culture

Climatic requirements. Botanically cardoon is not a cool season crop but it is cultivated as if it were. Cardoon lacks edible quality when grown in hot summer conditions. Culture should be arranged so that the crop develops and is harvested under moderately cool conditions. Areas providing moderately cool temperatures, those ranging from 55° to 65° F are preferred locations. Freezing temperatures below 28° F will damage and may kill above ground parts of tender non-acclimatized cardoon.

Propagation and care. Cardoon is commonly propagated from stem portions having axial buds or from 'suckers' which are the rooted offshoots developed and then removed from the previous stems. Plants can also be produced from seed. Seed can be sown indoors and then seedlings transplanted to the field when 3 to 4 inches tall. Place either transplants, seedlings, suckers or stem portions 20 inches apart in rows 3 to 4 feet wide. If planting seed directly into the field, sow several seed in clusters 20 inches apart in the row. When seedlings are established thin to a single plant. There are approximately 700 cardoon seeds per ounce and 4 to 5 pounds of seed are needed per acre.

Cardoon should not be harvested during warm periods because the flavor will be bad. Dates suitable for artichokes will apply. As with artichokes, frost periods should be avoided.

The cardoon prefers well drained rich soil, plenty of water and room to grow. Plants may require 6 months to become fully mature. Reduce weed competition by weeding regularly. When approaching maturity, and before harvesting, blanching of the stalks is desired to obtain a milder flavor. This is accomplished by tying together the outer branches for 2 to 3 weeks about a foot or so from the top of the plant and either piling up soil around the plant or wrapping the base of the stalks with heavy paper, burlap or other material to a height of 12 to 18 inches. Avoid covering the leaf tips. To harvest, cut the plants off below the crown and peel away or trim the coarse outside leaves to reveal the heart. About one foot of tender stalk is used.

Sources

Seed:

Nichols Garden Nursery, 1190 North Pacific Hwy, Albany, OR 97321.

Seeds Blum, Idaho City Stage, Boise, ID 83706.

Le Jardin du Gourmet, P. O. Box 75, St. Johnsbury Center, VT 05863.

Epicure Seeds, Ltd., P O Box 450, Brewster, NY 10509.

Exotica Seed Co., 8033 Sunset Blvd., Suite 125, West Hollywood, CA 90046.

More information:

Stephens, James. Minor Vegetables. Univ. of Florida Cooperative Extension Bulletin SP-40. June 1988. 123 pp.

Yamaguchi, Mas. World Vegetables. AVI Publishing Co., Inc. Westport, Conn. 1983. 415 pp.

Glenn, Charlotte and Georgeanne Brennan. Le Marché Seeds International Spring '88 Catalog. Dixon, CA. 1988. 41 pp.

Rubatzky, Vince. "Grow Cardoon for Piquent Flavor and Beauty." UC News release. Jun. 24, 1983. 2 pp.

Mansour, N. S. Cardoon. Oregan State University Vegetable Crops Recommendations. 1990.

Compiled by Vince Rubatzky, Vegetable Crops Dept., UC Davis; and Claudia Myers, UC Davis Small Farm Center.

Captions:

Figure 1. Cardoon grown to a height of 3 to 5 feet. (Photo by Hunter Johnson).

Reviewed by Harry Agamalian, Farm Advisor, Monterey County. 12/20/89

Reviewed by Vince Rubatzky, 1/8/90

4/30/90