At Seeds Aside, there’s a special affinity, if not affection, for plants and notably those plants that are politely called “minor crops” in the genetic resources jargon. It’s been weeks I’ve seen cardoons sold at the farmers market, and, eventually, I bought some.
I don’t remember seeing this veggie two years ago, but nowadays it’s way more frequently sold. I guess it has become more fashionable with time passing.
So I plan to have a post about this very interesting vegetable soon. The plant is related to the artichoke and indeed share flavors with this flower. But instead of cooking the capitula, that’s stems we eat in cardoons. I didn’t find a way to cook it at its best, so don’t hesitate to write your tips in comments. I enjoyed it fried, but definitely not boiled. It seems good with fennel, but definitely not with eggplant or pepper…
Before going into details about this crop, I’ve been quite surprised to learn about its potential uses. Unlike most crops aimed at food production, cardoons do have many economical uses and its culture can find its way through different markets. So not only are branches yielding edible veggies, but also:
– flowers can serve as a rennet* substitute to make cheese (1), both as a protein coagulant helping maturation and phenols intricately enhancing specific cheese flavors (2)
– seeds, due to high oil content (and stable quality), can also either be used as raw materials for biodiesel production or even alimentary oil (3).
– stem and leaves apparently can also find their way into paper industry (1) (I don’t cite other papers that were ways too technical past the title).
Just seems like perfect plant! And it’s able to grow in somewhat dry habitats… (but more to come later!).
*Hey, an anglicized French word that became very sexy through its adoption!
(1) Fernandez, J., Curt, M.D., and P.L. Aguado (2006). Industrial applications of Cynara cardunculus L. for energy and other uses. Industrial Crops and Products 24 (3): 222-229
(2) Roseiro, L.B., Viala, D., Besle, J.M., Carnat, A., Fraisse, D., Chezal, J.M., and J.L. Lamaison (2005). Preliminary observations of flavonoid glycosides from the vegetable coagulant Cynara L. in protected designation of origin cheeses. International Dairy Journal 15 (6-9): 579-584
(3) Curt, M.D., Sanchez, G., and J. Fernandez (2002). The potential of Cynara cardunculus L. for seed oil production in a perennial cultivation system. Biomass and Bioenergy 23 (1): 33-46