Last winter, my mother told me about an exotic vegetable she ordered from the gardening catalog. Did I want one? she asked. Sure, I said, and then forgot about it. She carefully raised the seedlings and gave me two, while reserving two for herself.
By the end of the summer, I had two cardoons filled with leafy, pale green stalks, about 2 feet long. While my funky vegetables flourished, my mother’s languished. I decided to learn a little more about the plant that so filled my herb garden. Apparently, the cardoon tastes like its relative the artichoke, and similar to its other relative, the thistle, it can be invasive, spreading seedlings throughout gardens and nearby woods. To prevent cardoon takeover, all I need to do is trim the bushy purple flowers before they finish blooming.
I was more interested in how to cook this thing. Recipes for cardoon are scarce, and apparently the vegetable needs great patience to prepare properly. (They must be peeled, and then boiled in lemon water before you can cook with them.) However, I recently decided to learn how to cook vegetables my mother did not.
Last week, I bought turnips and beets from the local farmer’s market. I rarely ate either vegetable and could not even recall the taste of turnip. My husband, however, could. He hates turnips. I had no idea. One night, I cooked the bitter veggie with some carrots and apples to sweeten it. He complained, but dutifully and kindly ate them. The next night, I hid turnips in a fluffy pile of mashed potatoes, swimming butter and rolling sour cream. No complaints that night.
I fear that cardoon might rank with the turnip in my husband’s tastes. I fear that I might not even like this strange vegetable, but we’ll sample it anyway on Friday. Since my mother’s cardoons faired so poorly, I’ve invited her to sample it with us.