What looks like some kind of prehistoric celery and is related to the artichoke? Cardoons! Read more about them after the jump.
Also known as an artichoke thistle, this seeming celery on steroids has a mild artichoke flavor. It likes to grow in cool, dry climates and is at its peak in fall to early winter, depending where you are.
The flower of this fun-to-say vegetable is edible, but its stem is the preferred culinary part of the plant. It is spiny and prickly, though, so most cardoon recipes call for trimming, peeling, and blanching them (preferably in acidulated water to keep them from browning, much like artichokes) before cooking. They’re served steamed, braised, in soups or salads, or even battered and fried.
Though its most common in Italian, Spanish, French, Persian, and Moroccan cuisines, cardoon dishes did appear in colonial American kitchens. If you’re looking for cardoons, check your local farmers’ market when they’re in season in your area. Though they’re not especially common in grocery stores, they can occasionally be found in your friendly neighborhood produce aisle.
Have you cooked or eaten cardoons? How do you like to prepare them?