Cardon before cooking
Organic agriculture and biodiversity have in recent years brought about a rediscovery of many “forgotten” vegetables that people especially in Europe and France conscientiously tried to forget as they reminded them of the privations suffered during WWII. The same people had then to make do with untraditional vegetables because potatoes, carrots and so on were confiscated by occupying forces or their own armies.
With sustainibility and bioagriculture made more important by the deficiencies of modern mass agriculture, those “forgotten” vegetables have suddenly come to the fore for the pleasure of all, and that of course of vegetarians and vegans!
This particular series of postings will introduce these vegetables one by one. I hope they will become useful for a long time to come to all my vegan and vegetarian friends!
1) Scorsonere/Oyster Plant
The cardon or cardoon (Cynara cardunculus), also called the artichoke thistle, cardone, cardoni, carduni or cardi, is a thistle-like plant which is member of the Aster family, Asteraceae; (or archaic: Daisy family, Compositae). It is a naturally occurring variant of the same species as the Globe artichoke, and has many cultivated varieties. It is native to the Mediterranean, where it was domesticated in ancient times.
The cardon was popular in Greek and Roman cuisine. Cardons remained popular in medieval and early modern Europe, and were common in the vegetable gardens of colonial America. They fell from fashion only in the late nineteenth century. In Europe, Cardon is still cultivated in Provence, Spain and Italy. In the Geneva region, where Huguenot refugees introduced it about 1685, the local variety Cardy is considered a culinaric specialty.
Cardon stalks can be covered with small, nearly invisible spines that can cause substantial pain if they become lodged in the skin. Several “spineless” cultivars have been developed to overcome this but care in handling is recommended for all types.
While the flower buds can be eaten much as the artichoke, more often the stems are eaten after being braised in cooking liquid. Battered and fried, the stems are also traditionally served at St. Joseph’s altars in New Orleans.
The stalks, which look like large celery stalks, can be served steamed or braised. They have an artichoke-like flavor. Cardons are available in the market only in the winter months. In the U.S.A., it is rarely found in stores, but available in farmers’ markets, where it is available through May, June, and July. The main root can also be boiled and served cold. Acclaimed chef Mario Batali calls the cardon one of his favorite vegetables and says they have a “very sexy flavor.” LOL
Cardons are used as a vegetarian source of enzymes for cheese production. In Portugal, traditional coagulation of the curd relies entirely on this vegetable rennet. This results in cheeses such as the Nisa (D.O.P.), with a peculiar earthy, herbaceous and a slightly citric flavour that bears affinitty with full-body or fortified wines.
Cardons are also an ingredient in one of the national dishes of Spain, the Cocido Madrileno, a slow-cooking, one-pot, meat and vegetable dinner simmered in broth, cardoons are traditional in the cocidos of Madrid.
Cardon requires a long, cool growing season (ca. 5 months) but it is frost-sensitive. It also typically requires substantial growing space per plant and hence is not much grown save where it is a regional favorite.
The cardoon is highly invasive and is able to adapt to dry climates. It has become a major weed in the pampas of Argentina and California; it is also considered a weed in Australia.