How To Use And Cook Cardoon?

Having plants in your garden that are not only beautiful but also edible is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? Cardoon is one of these!

If you have one and you are wondering how to use and cook cardoon, or how do cardoon taste like, then you’re in the right place. Let’s find out together!

How To Use And Cook Cardoon

Cardoons are not the most simple vegetable to prepare, but they are worth any extra cooking time and preparation.

A good starting point is to blanch them – from this step you can add them to stews, soups, gratins – or even just on their own with some delicious sauce.

  1. Take a large bowl, fill it with cold water and the juice of a lemon. Set this aside for later.
  2. Next, take a bunch of cardoon and trim both ends, and remove any leaves that may be remaining.
  3. Shave the edges off the stalks, being careful of the tiny spikes, and remove any large ribs. Cut them into 1 inch pieces, crosswise.
  4. As soon as they are cut, toss the pieces into the lemon water – the lemon juice will stop the cardoons from discolouring.
  5. Fill a large, heavy bottomed pot with water, add a pinch of salt and the juice of another lemon, then bring to the boil.
  6. Boil for 15-20 minutes, until they are just tender but not yet mushy or soft. Remove the pieces from the water and plunge them into a bowl of water filled with ice cubes.
  7. When they are dry, place them into a container and store in the fridge until you are ready to use them in a recipe.
  8. You can also freeze your cardoon if you need to store a glut or you aren’t ready to use it straight away – it should be fine in the freezer for 6 months.

There are a great many recipe ideas on how to use cardoon; let’s have a look at this video which should give us some ideas on how to start:

How Do Cardoon Taste Like?

The taste of a cardoon has been described as similar to an artichoke (to which it is closely related) but with a slightly more bitter flavour.

You may be the sort of person who likes bitter flavours, in which case this is definitely the vegetable for you!

If your tastes shy away from too much bitterness (and who can blame you!) then a simple solution is to cook your cardoons more.

The cooking process – boiling them for at least 20-30 minutes before you use them in a dish – considerably reduces the bitterness of this plant.

You can also try adding them to strongly flavoured dishes, where their own strong taste will be slightly masked.

Don’t be put off; the bitterness is not the overriding flavour! Younger leaves and stems are less strongly flavoured than their older counterparts.

What Part Of The Cardoon Do You Eat?

Cardoons are generally grown for their young leaf stems, which are similar in appearance to celery.

You can also eat the flower heads as well, which are generally prepared and eaten in the same way as an artichoke.

Any part of this plant is edible, and you can also use the young, tender leaves in stir fries or salads, for a bit of a talking point around the dinner table!

Are Cardoons Good For You?

You never saw Popeye munching on cardoons to gain his legendary strength, nor do we see celebrities touting it as the next superfood – but you can eat cardoon, and they contain some surprising health benefits.

  • They are extremely low in calories. Like celery, cardoon almost uses more calories to eat than it gives you! At just 17 calories per 100g, it is very calorie light.
  • They contain fibre. Like most fruits and veggies, cardoon is high in fibre, helping you feel fuller for longer and also contributing to a healthy digestive system.
  • They contain antioxidants. We are surrounded by free radicals and pollutants, so anything we can put into our bodies to counteract this is good!
  • They can help to reduce cholesterol. Because they contain cynarine and sesquiterpene lactones, cardoon can help lower your cholesterol naturally.
  • They contain a lot of folic acid, which can help in the synthesis of DNA, and is essential for the development of a healthy baby.
  • They are high in B vitamins, which play a huge part in maintaining healthy cellular metabolic functions in our bodies.
  • They contain minerals like iron, potassium, copper, calcium and phosphorous. All these things contribute to a healthy body.

As you can see, cardoon is not only beautiful in the garden, but it can have a beautiful effect on your health too!

This article explains it further, with a table to break down the benefits.

Can You Eat Cardoon Raw?

You can eat just about any plant you want to raw – but some you would only ever eat once. Cardoon can be either raw or cooked, you’ll be pleased to hear!

In Italy, raw is the traditional way to eat cardoon – with a dip made from anchovies and olive oil – but would you really want to?

In many countries, the cardoons we grow are too bitter to eat raw. Cooking helps to remove some of this bitterness.

Another potential problem is the spines – these plants have spines on their stems, so munching one raw would likely be pretty uncomfortable!

They can be eaten raw, but you are better off going for the youngest, most tender leaves, to save your mouth and your taste buds!

Final Words

Cardoon is a wonderful plant to grow – it’s very attractive and will be a talking piece in your garden – plus you can eat it! What’s not to love?

Hopefully you now have some great ideas on how to cook and eat this lovely plant as well as grow it. Bon appetit!

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