The Backyard Larder

A place to explore and buy perennial vegetables and other food plants.

Trying perennial cardoon shoots – unblanched!

Last June I wrote a post about blanching perennial cardoons earlier in the year than the autumn blanching recommended for plants sown in the spring. Why? Because perennially grown plants are already full and leafy by mid-spring.

I had a bit of a problem with tough leaf stalks though, and so will be starting soon on my resolution to pamper my cardoon this spring with some extra feeding to soften it up a bit. Also to remember to remove the flower stalks when they appear and commence the blanching a bit earlier too.Young cardoon plant

Meanwhile, seeing that the plant was beginning to green up, I remembered another plan – to try an un-blanched shoot. I had read some accounts online which suggested that, harvested early in the spring, the shoots might not be bitter and might not need blanching.

Early cardoon shoots

I had a nibble of a raw leaf. Wow, that was bitter!! (probably the bitterest thing I’ve sampled from the garden). But I took a shoot home to cook all the same….
Young cardoon shoot

…and trimmed it, boiled it for 5 minutes (the water had turned a fantastic gold colour by the end of the cooking time) and ate it with a dab of sunflower margarine and some pepper and salt.

Trimmed cardoon shoot

Boiled cardoon shoot

Sampled cardoon shoot

The verdict? Well, the bit of leaf stem that’s gone from the photo above was delicious! Tender and juicy, it tasted just like the succulent base of the globe artichoke flower scales that you dip in oil and scrape off between your teeth.

The leaves in the photo were good too. Still fairly bitter it is true – but now in a tasty, springtime health tonic sort of way! Oh alright, still a bit hardcore really – but another thought occurs to me now. How about a bucket blanch? Dispense with the wrapping up in cardboard and straw rigmarole and just pop a bucket over early spring shoots for a few weeks. A new vegetable to crop so early in the year would be very welcome.

So I will have to try that, as well as the other idea that came up in my research last June – which was to allow the cardoon to flower in summer and then cut it down, and blanch it in autumn after it has resumed growth. The benefit of this being that I’d get a winter crop – the traditional time for warming cardoon suppers! And one more thing also – to gauge the effect of removing the flower stalks. This may actually be all I need to do if I want to keep my cardoon leaves tender and not too tall, in order to blanch them in autumn.

Cardoon in flower

There is always something new to try!

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