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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Your Seasonal Produce Guide: Cardoons

Posted By on Wed, Mar 21, 2012 at 2:45 PM

cardoon flowers - FLICKR/PUFFIN11UK
  • Flickr/puffin11uk
  • cardoon flowers
A SFoodie series on what to do with your farmers' market impulse buys and CSA box surprises.

Under appreciated by Americans until recently, cardoons have been eaten in Italy and throughout the Mediterranean region for thousands of years. A cousin to the globe artichoke, this lesser-known member of the thistle family is coveted by local chefs in the know. The flavor and texture are very similar to that of an artichoke heart. Recently we've spotted cardoons on the menu at San Francisco restaurants AQ and Incanto.

cardoon stalks - FLICKR/KITKABBIT
  • Flickr/kitkabbit
  • cardoon stalks
How do I buy them? The cardoon buds look similar to an artichoke and are beautiful when they flower. However, it's the celery-like stalks that are best for eating. Choose firm bunches that are on the smaller side. Cardoons are available throughout the winter and spring months here in the Bay Area. 

How do I eat them? Cleaning the stalks is a labor-intensive task. All thorns, leaves, and fibrous strings must be removed before cooking. This can be done with a paring knife and vegetable peeler. Once cut, they will oxidize when exposed to air. Holding the cleaned stalks in a bowl of cold water with lemon until you are ready to cook will keep them from turning brown.

Braising, baking, and deep frying cardoons can all produce great results. To prepare an easy braised dish: cut the cleaned stems into 2-inch pieces and par cook in boiling water for ten minutes, then strain and transfer to a baking dish. Coat the pieces with olive oil, salt and pepper, cover with chicken or vegetable broth and bake (covered) at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until tender.

Marla Simon is a San Francisco-based chef, food stylist, and food writer.
Follow her on twitter at @Marla_Simon
Follow us at: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

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Marla Simon


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