Closely related to Artichokes
, Cardoons produce large Celery-like stalks that taste much like Artichokes when cooked. Their thick silvery stalks may also be eaten raw like Celery
. Although uncommon in the US, Cardoons are considered a delicacy in Italy, commonly used in soups, stews, salads and as a crudité for lemony Garlic
dips. Cardoons should be started indoors 8 to 12 weeks before setting outside in your garden. They require warmth, strong light and a well-draining fertile spot. Three to five weeks before harvesting, blanche its heart by gathering up the outer leaf stalks, securing them with garden twine and covering the outer, bundled leaves with burlap or heavy paper. Appearing much like cloaked garden monsters for up to five weeks, Cardoons are harvested by cutting them off at their bases. Pull apart the fleshy stalks, clean them well and remove the bitter, spiny leaves as well as any stringy fibers running down the back of the stalk. Depending on how you are going to use them, you may want to rub them with a halved lemon to reduce discoloration or preboil them in salted water for two hours prior to use in cooked recipes. Perennial in hardiness zones 6-10, grow as an Annual in colder zones. Deer resistant. Average seed life: 1 year.