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Although Cardoni's harvested stalks have the initial appearance of celery, the stalks should not be crisp like celery. They actually should feel heavy and moist. Cardoni's stalks are pale pistachio in color with longitudinal furrows and a suede-like texture. Once picked and trimmed, the few remaining leaves should also be pale, grey-green and soft. The leaves, however are not recommended for eating. When cooked, the stalks are meaty, nutty and bittersweet.
Cardoni is available in winter through early spring.
Cardoni, botanical name Cynara cardunculus, is a thistle-like herbaceous perennial plant and member of the Aster family, Asteraceae. It is often referred to as an artichoke, though it is actually a separate cultivar with common lineage. Cardoni are grown blanched. This is the process of tying the plant together and blocking out sunlight with paper or straw to shade the stalks. The lack of light source creates a more tender and sweeter plant. The best cardoni grow in absolute darkness.
Cardones should not be eaten raw, but soaked and blanched before preparing to remove their bitter quality. A classic preparation of Cardoni is bagna cauda, where the stems are boiled, breaded and fried and served with melting cheese and a hot anchovy sauce. Cardoni pair well with rich fatty ingredients and high acid ingredients. Complimentary ingredients include anchovies, white fish, bacon, basil, butter, cheeses, especially goat and feta, cream, garlic, lemon, hollandaise, mushrooms, pepper, sausage, thyme, tomatoes, vinaigrettes, white wine and truffles. Cardoni should be kept dry and refrigerated until ready to use.
Cardoni are used as a vegetarian source of enzymes (known as rennet) in cheese production.
Cardoni is native to Northwest Africa. It is believed to have been cultivated for thousands of years in the central and western Mediterranean regions of Europe. It is known as a highly evasive plant that can take over a garden and if left to seed, spread for miles around. It is so successful at escaping cultivation that it is legally listed as a "noxious weed". Cardoni is a relatively unimportant food crop outside of Western Europe, specifically Italy. It has been documented several times throughout agricultural journals and books that cardoni do not produce enough edible plant for the space that they take up within a garden, noting that the crop can never pay enough for the ground it claims. Often gardeners simply choose to plant the cardoni for its ornamental value, as it produces crowns of bold violet blue thistled flowers in late summer and autumn. The Royal Horticultural Society of Great Britian gave the Garden Award of Merit to the cardoni, regaling it as one of the most important plants of the past 200 years.
Recipes that include Cardoni. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Educated Palate: Giuliano & Lael Hazan's Blog||Gratinéed Cardoons|
|The Bitten Word||Golden Fried Cardoon|
|Citron & Vanille||Cardoni Au Gratin With a Tomato Fondue, Olives and Parmesan|
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