When I saw the sign in the window at the Italian market, I had to ask the owner about “Cardone” (pronounced car-DOAN-a). He pointed to a large cardboard box by the door that was filled with vegetables that looked like large bunches of overgrown celery.
Cardone (also called cardoni or cardoon) is an old vegetable that dates to early Roman times. The best way to describe Cynara cardunculus is as a celery-looking artichoke relative. The long, stringy stalks can’t be eaten raw, but need to be parboiled before using in recipes.
Often part of a special Italian feast at Christmas time, cardone is grown in places like California and the Mediterranean where the weather is ideal for harvesting the vegetable at this time of year.
I’ve read that cardone is planted and grown much like celery, in rich organic and well-drained soil. The plants need plenty of moisture to grow about three feet tall. When they reach the right stage, each bunch is covered or wrapped to blanch or whiten the edible stalks. While cardone stalks look like celery, they taste more like artichokes.
Naturally low in calories and high in fiber, the stalks are rinsed and the strings and leaves are removed. Then the stalks are cut into pieces, soaked in salted water to remove any bitterness and then parboiled.
Once the stalks have softened, they can be breaded and fried, whirled into soup, made into a quiche or baked into a casserole. A traditional method of cooking is to dredge long pieces in flour, dip them in beaten egg and fry (or bake). The “French fried” cardone is served with an anchovy sauce.
Another way to enjoy prepared cardone pieces is to enjoy them as a vegetable to dip into a recipe called Bagna Cauda.
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