Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A word on Cardoons

It is winter in San Miniato, which means it is time to eat "Cardoni". After checking on the internet about the availability of "Cardoni" in the USA I feel there lacks some information about what they are and where to find them.

There are two types of "Cardoni" (Cardoons in English) - and you can generally use both to cook the recipes you find on the various internet sites.

Cardoni type number 1 is a plant that is a relative of the artichoke, can grow quite tall, is of a whitish green color and has an artichoke like taste. These Cardoons grow in the north of Italy (they are sown out every season), as one website tells can sometimes be found growing wild in the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, but are generally hard to find (you cannot even find them in Tuscany or Southern Italy, they need a very specific soil in order to grow). They do not bear any other fruit. Their "sense of being" is to be a Cardoon.

BUT NOW COMES THE SOLUTION: Cardoni type no. 2 - is not a relative of the artichoke, it IS PART of the normal artichoke plant! Here in Tuscany, we harvest "our" Cardoons of the artichokes a couple of months before the artichokes are harvested.

So what is the Tuscan Cardoon - which to my understanding should be possible to recuperate from every artichoke plant on this planet? When the plants start growing, they develop several stems. Each stem is to carry a so called "mamma" - the mother artichoke. Of this main stem about 15 artichokes can be harvested from healthy plants, which are deeplt routed in the soil. Now: YOU ONLY WANT ONE MAMMA! The other stems you need to prune, in order to give room enough to the mamma. These "excess" stems are what we call "cardoni" and we use them in all the varieties of COOKED recipes that I found browsing the net. Do you have artichokes growing close to you? Why don't you try the Tuscan side dish "Cardone in umido":

> wash cardoni and clean out the strings (as you would do with celery)
> cut in bite size pieces and cook in boiling water with a hint of lemon juice (important, the lemon stops the cardoon to turn brownish... this trick works also for artichokes!)
> when almost done, take the cardoons out of the water, turn them in flour until they are evenly covered (shake off excess flour)
> in the meantime heat some good olive oil (e.g. Cosimo's extra virgin olive oil in The Scrumptious Pantry) and fry two pieces of whole, but slightly crushed, garlic
> add the flour covered cardoons and fry for about five minutes
> add a couple of tablespoons of tomato sauce and let cook another 3 minutes over medium heat
> take out garlic and put salt and pepper to taste

Makes a great side dish for meats! Calculate about seven cardoons (that is the type 2 ones, which are much smaller) per person.


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