< Vegetables



Cynara cardunculus

This perennial member of the thistle/artichoke family ranked among the largest plants grown in North America prior to the rise of industrial agriculture. Native to southern Europe and North Africa, the cardoon favored warmer climes and richer soils, so had its greatest presence in southern market farmers serving the northern city trade from the 1850s to the First World War. Indeed, the vegetable never had any substantial following among home kitchen gardeners, becoming one of the ‘fancy’ vegetables found on hotel menus in major urban centers. Grown for the blanched mid-rib of the leaf, celebrity chefs such as Pierre Blot, Jules Arthur Harder, and Felix J. Deliee, prepared it in a range of dishes during autumn and winter. There are no recorded instances of the plant being used as a substitute for rennet in Cheese-making, as occurred in southern France.

The flavour of the stalks when not blanched was bitter; when blanched, milder than that of artichoke. Indeed, its lack of a pronounced flavor meant it did not capture the tastebuds of a wide public. Another reason for its limited cultivation was the labor it required. of the plant’s cultivation and preparation made many growers think it not worth the effort:

A piece of good rich light soil is prepared by digging on which trenches are opened four feet apart, six inches deep and twelve wide. Along the middle of the trenches the gardener should drop patches of several seeds at eighteen inches apart. When the seedlings appear, and have gained a little strength, they should all be removed with the exception of one from each patch. During summer, the growth of the plants is encouraged by keeping them free from weeds, and by occasional watering, if necessary. Towards the middle of October, the plants will be large enough, and ready for blanching. This is done on a dry day, by first gathering up all the leaves closelv round the centre, and in that position binding lb cm together with strands of mat or osier twigs. This done, each plant is earthed up in the manner of celery, so that the points of the highest leaves are only exposed at top. In two or three weeks the leaf-stalks will be sufficiently. [1]

Because the plants grew four to six feet tall, the earthen mounds compacted around the stalks entailed substantial digging and shaping. Celery, which was a quarter the size, was considered the most labor intensive garden vegetable in regular cultivation by Americans because it too required earthing to be blanched. Unlike many other garden vegetables, it could not be consumed in a ‘green state,’ but had to go through the entire process of maturation and preparation. Because the leaf stalks, like other thistles, bore multitudes of pins, wrestling them into a bunch could be a scratchy experience. Depending upon the variety planted, the cardoon had to be in soil four to five weeks in order to be properly whitened and tenderized.[2] Harvest must occur before the first frost.

American market gardeners secured European seed stock when commencing the cultivation of Cardoons. They preferred the Spanish Cardoon over all other varieties. French hotel

1. Charles Frederick Partington, The British cyclopædia of Natural History (London, 1825), p. 699.
2. Vilmorin-Andeieux, The Vegetable Garden (Paris & Philadelphia, 1885), p. 158.

Prickly Tours Cardoon (Cardon de Tours)    History

—This is one of the smaller varieties, and has very thick and solid stalks or ribs. On the other band, it is the most spiny kind of all, which, however, does not prevent it from holding the first place in the estimation of the market gardeners of Tours and Paris.

Smooth Solid Cardoon (Cardon Plein Inerme)    History

—This variety, which is almost entirely free from spines, is something larger than the preceding kind, has longer leaves and ribs, and grows from about 4 to 41/2 ft. high. The ribs are always broader than those of the Prickly Tours Cardoon, but not so thick, yet they become hollow sooner, if the plant is allowed to suffer ever so little from drought or want of nourishment. The leaves are neither quite so much cut, nor quite so whitish in hue, as those of the Prickly Tours variety.

Artichoke-leaved Cardoon (Cardon Puvis)    History

—A very distinct variety, which is entirely free from spines. Leaves very broad and large, not much cut, and of a rather dark-green colour. It is a plant of vigorous growth, with broad ribs, which are usually half-solid, and is chiefly grown in the vicinity of Lyons, where it attains about the same height as the Smooth Solid Cardoon, but is broader in all its parts.

Red - stemmed Cardoon (Cardon a Cotes Rouges)    History

—A variety closely allied to the Long Spanish Cardoon, differing from it mainly in the reddish tinge of its stalks or ribs, which are usually only halfsolid.

Cookery of the cardoon (Field & Garden Vegetables of America 1868)    History

When a cardoon is to be cooked, its heart, and the solid, not piped, stalks of the leaves are to be cut into pieces, about six inches long, and boiled like any other vegetable, in pure water, not salt and water, till they are tender. They are then to be carefully deprived of the slime and strings which will be found to cover them; and having thus been thoroughly cleaned, are to be plunged in cold water, where they must remain till they are wanted for the table; they are then taken out and heated with white sauce, marrow, orany other of the adjuncts recommended in cookery books. The process just described is for the purpose of rendering them white, and depriving them of a bitterness which is peculiar to them; if neglected, the cardoons will be black, not white, as well as disagreeable. Fiering Burr Field and Garden Vegetables of America (Boston, 1868), p. 165

Cardoon (What to Eat and How to Cook it 1863)    History

The white part only is good to eat. Clean well and scrape the sides; cut in pieces two inches and a half in length, and throw them in boiling water with a little salt; boil them till their sliminess comes off easily; then take from the fire, pour cold water in, and by the means of a towel remove the sliminess; soak in cold water and drain them. Lay a few slices of bacon in a stewpan, place the cardoons on them, and again lay slices of bacon on; season with two onions, two sprigs of parsley, one of thyme, a bay leaf, and a clove, salt, pepper, and the juice of half a lemon; cover with water and set on a good fire; boil till cooked; take from the fire and drain the cardoons only, throwing away the seasonings. Put the cardoons back in the stewpan, in which you have left the bacon; add two or three tablespoonfuls of broth, and two of Espagnole sauce; set on a slow fire, and simmer till the sauce is reduced to a proper thickness. Have at the same time in a pan on the fire a piece of ox marrow, and when melted mix it well with the sauce at the moment you take the cardoons from the fire, and serve hot either with or without the bacon. Pierre Blot, What to Eat, and How to Cook it (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1863), pp. 176-77.

Cardoons with Marrow (Harder’s Practical Cookery 1885)     History

Take six white and solid Cardoon stems (the hard and hollow ones are of no use) and cut them four inches in length. As you prepare them put them in a pan of cold water, acidulated. Have a saucepanful of boiling water on the fire, in which you will put the juice of five lemons. Put the pieces of Cardoon in this water and parboil them until you can peel off the outer surface easily. Take them off of the fire to peel and trim them, adding sufficient cold water to allow you to put your hand in the water. Then put the peeled Cardoons in fresh water and drain them on a napkin. Prepare a deep flat saucepan lined with fine slices of fat pork, in which you will put the Cardoons. Season them well with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar, and moisten with enough broth to cover them. Add the juice of two lemons and cover the Cardoons with thin slices of fat pork. Put on the lid and let them boil, after which let them cook slowly. AVhen done drain them on a napkin. Dish them up and then pour a reduced Espagnole sauce over them, garnish around the dish with small patties or buttered toast filled with scallops of marrow cooked with fine herbs. Then serve. Jules Arthur Harder, The Physiology of Taste; Or, Harder’s Practical American Cookery (San Francisco, 1885), pp. 80-82.

Cardoons with Parmesan Cheese (Harder’s Practical American Cookery 1885)    History

Prepare and cook them the same as Cardoons with Marrow, and when done drain them on a napkin and trim them. Arrange a layer of Cardoons in a buttered baking dish, add a little reduced Espagnole sauce and sprinkle it with Parmesan cheese. Make three layers like this and sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese and fresh bread crumbs mixed together. Wipe off the border, put a little butter on the top, and then bake it in the oven. Jules Arthur Harder, The Physiology of Taste; Or, Harder’s Practical American Cookery (San Francisco, 1885), pp. 80-82.

Cardoons with Essence of Ham (Harder’s Practical American Cookery 1885)     History

When the Cardoons are parboiled and cleaned, as in Cardoons with Marrow, put them in a flat saucepan with a glass of white wine and some broth to cover them. Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar, and let them cook until the moisture is reduced, and they are nicely glazed. Then put them in a dish, and pour over them a reduced brown sauce, with essence of ham. Jules Arthur Harder, The Physiology of Taste; Or, Harder’s Practical American Cookery (San Francisco, 1885), pp. 80-82.

Cardoon Fricasee (Harder’s Practical American Cookery 1885)    History

Cook the Cardoons as in Cardoons with Marrow, and reduce the moisture without letting them get brown. Take out the faggot and add a few spoonfuls of Allemaude sauce and the juice of one lemon. Toss it all well together, and serve with a garniture of buttered toasted bread, cut in fancy shapes. Jules Arthur Harder, The Physiology of Taste; Or, Harder’s Practical American Cookery (San Francisco, 1885), pp. 80-82.

Puree of Cardoons (Harder’s Practical American Cookery 1885)    History

Prepare and cook them as in Cardoons with Marrow. When well cooked take out the faggot, reduce the broth, and add two spoonfuls of Allemande or Cream sauce. Rub them through a fine sieve, put them back in the saucepan, and before serving add a small piece of butter. Jules Arthur Harder, The Physiology of Taste; Or, Harder’s Practical American Cookery (San Francisco, 1885), pp. 80-82.

Cardoon Salad, Spanish Style (Harder’s Practical American Cookery 1885)    History

Prepare and cook the Cardoons the same as in Cardoons with Marrow. Then cut them in scollops an inch long and drain them on a napkin. Put them in a salad bowl and season them with salt and pepper. Then chop two cloves of garlic very fine and put them in a frying pan with a little sweet oil. Fry them lightly (not letting them get brown), and add immediately some bell peppers, chopped fine, and some vinegar. Then let them boil up for two minutes and pour the dressing over the Cardoons, mixing them well together, and then serve. Jules Arthur Harder, The Physiology of Taste; Or, Harder’s Practical American Cookery (San Francisco, 1885), pp. 80-82.

Cardoons Preserved (Harder’s Practical American Cookery 1885)    History

Prepare and clean the Cardoons as in Cardoons with Marrow. Cut them all the same size and drain them. Then put one gallon of water in a saucepan, and when it boils, add two spoonfuls of flour, diluted in cold water, a little salt, and the juice of two lemons. Stir it until it boils, so it will not get lumpy. When it boils, add the Cardoons. and cook them until tender. Take the saucepan off of the fire and let the Cardoons get cold. Take each piece out and dip them in lukewarm water, and place them in quart tin cans. Cover them with cold-boiled water, lightly salted. Then solder on the cover,, and cook them in a hot bath for two hours. Jules Arthur Harder, The Physiology of Taste; Or, Harder’s Practical American Cookery (San Francisco, 1885), pp. 80-82.