What are Cardoons ?

(“Cardoni”- “Carduna”)


The cardoons are available in the Sicilian vegetable markets from October throughout the winter to early spring.
The Phoenicians occupied the western costal area of Sicily, around the year 1000 BC. and founded Palermo, Solunto and Mozia.
They established textile manufacturing and they started an-up-to date way to cultivate wheat. The Phoenicians introduced the artichokes and their techniques to grow cardoons.
The juice of the cardoons was originally used as rennet to curdle the milk to make ricotta and cheese.

Today cardoons are a much sought-after vegetable by Sicilians, Italians, French, Spanish and gourmets all over the world. In season they are widely consumed.
For Christmas the cardoons are a must on the menu of my family and every Sicilian table.The cardoon is a plant that looks like a big bunch of celery. It has a grayish-white-green flesh that is edible and it has a very refined and seductive taste.

 

Fried Cardoons

Cardoni Salad

Cardoons in Pastetta

 

Cardoons can be eaten boiled and dressed with olive oil and lemon juice or dipped in an egg and flour batter or simply lightly coated with flour and fried. 
They can be mixed in salads or sautéed, stewed or combined with eggs to make a frittata.

 

 See below for the preparation and cooking of cardoons.

 

                           

 

 

 

The cardoons require a detailed preparation, because the strings from the stalks must be removed and needs to follow certain exact procedures.
The preliminaries and cleaning of the cardoons may appear as a complicated and boring task: on the contrary it is easy and it can be done in a short amount of time.
When buying the cardoons choose fresh and crispy, select small bunches- this is very important- and avoid vegetables whose leaves are discolored or damaged by refrigeration or by insects.
Usually two small bunches weighing about 3 lb. serve 6 to 8.

 

Preparation of Cardoons


When preparing cardoons for cooking, wear utility gloves to avoid staining your hands. Prepare a large bowl with enough water to soak the cardoons after they are trimmed, add to it 1 full tablespoon of salt and the juice of a lemon to prevent discoloration. 
Cut and discard about 1 inch from the top and trim the base far up enough so that the stalks can be easily separated.
Using a potato peeler, remove the strings from the stalks, cut cardoons across into 2 inches pieces and place in the basin with the acidulated and salted water.

Keep the cardoons in the salt and lemon juice solution from
6 to 12 hours.

 

Cooking of Cardoons

 

Drain and rinse the cardoons. Place them in a large pot, add 1 and ½ tablespoons of salt cover with cold water 2 inches above the cardoons and bring to a boil.
Lower heat and simmer uncovered. After 45 minutes check if they are tender or cook for an additional 15 minutes to ½ hour until they are ready.

Place the cardoons in a colander to drain and cool. Shake a few times to eliminate excess water.