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Cardoon (photo courtesy of Mark Turner)
Cardoon (photo courtesy of Mark Turner)

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Zones 4-9, 12-24
Full Sun
Regular Water


Perennials, Vegetables

With the look of a giant artichoke—they’re related—this Mediterranean native (Cynara cardunculus) is grown for its edible leafstalks rather than its flower buds, or as an ornamental. It reaches 5–8 ft. tall and 4–6 ft. wide, attaining maximum size in the Pacific Northwest, with coarse, spiny, gray-green leaves up to 1 1/2 ft. long. In summer, stems produce purple, thistle-like blossoms up to 3 in. across. They can be cut and dried for arrangements. Cardoon’s perennial roots can handle 5°F (–15°C) if mulched. The plant can naturalize in mild-winter climates.

For climate, soil, and other requirements, see Artichoke.

To prepare leaves for harvest, blanch them by gathering them together, tying them up, and wrapping with paper to exclude light in late summer to early fall, 4 to 5 weeks before harvesting. This removes bitterness and makes the stems more tender.

To cook cardoon, cut heavy leaf midribs into 3–4-in. lengths, parboil until tender, then saute; or serve boiled with butter or a sauce.

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