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syn. Artichoke Thistle  Cynara caredunculus     For growing instructions See Cultivation below.

(Plant heights are given at maturity)

Cardoon Cynara caredunculus  Cardoon (110 days) Cynara caredunculus - Mediterranean native prized for the leaf stalks, whose  hearts are boiled, sauteed or cooked and served chilled with oil and vinegar.  Interesting change from the average salad.   Full sun.
#765  Packet  $3.50   Approximately 30 seeds


Cardoon is an herbaceous perennial native to southern Europe and northern Africa belonging to the Daisy family, Compositae and in the same genus as artichokes..  The plant has large deeply cut grey-green slightly hairy leaves with white undersides. Blooms are purple.  A good choice for warm climates with damp summers.  Hot conditions cause the leaves to become bitter.  Plants do best on deep fertile soils.  The plant reaches a height of 4-5 feet. 

Cardoon has a long history of cultivation - it was described in ancient Greek texts.  Popular in the middle ages and the Renaissance, it came to America with the colonists, but fell out of favor  in the late 1800s.  Leaves, roots and flowers are eaten.  Blooms are used as a rennet substitute in making vegetarians cheeses or in the same manner as artichokes.  Leaves are best used before the flowers open and are boiled or cooked, incorporated into soups or as a side dish vegetable.  Oil pressed from the seeds is used in cooking.

Medicinally, cardoon contains cynarin, a bitter compound that is used to treat liver, gall bladder, and pancreatic complaints .

Cardoon is propagated from seed which can be sown directly into the garden or started as transplants or as cuttings or divisions.  To grow transplants, sow seed thinly in trays or pots allowing 2 inches between seeds or, if using plug trays, plant 2-3 seeds in each section (thin seedlings when they emerge to 1 plant per section).  Keep moist at 70-75F until germination.  Transplant to larger containers when seedlings reach 3-4 inches in height.  Transplant outdoors when temperatures remain above 50F.   

To sow seed directly into the garden, prepare soil . Dig trenches 8-9 inches deep 3 feet apart.  Cover to a depth of 1 inch. Sow 4-5 seeds in hills in the trench every 2 feet.  When seedlings reach about 3 inches in height, thin seedlings to one plant per hill.  Cultivate to keep weeks down and water during dry spells.

For cuttings, take stem pieces and place them in moist sand.  They will root readily.  Divisions can be taken from adult plants in spring.

Blanching.  Cardoon is blanched rather like celery.  In early fall or 6-8 weeks prior to harvesting, gather the leaves together in an upright position.  Surround the leaf bundle with hay or straw, then heap soils up around the straw to forn a mound with the cardoon in the center.  Plants should be properly blanched within 6-8 weeks.  When this is accomplished, leaves can be harvested.

Harvest:   Cut leaves right before flowers open removing the tips of the leaves.  Hold at 32F at 95% humidity to prevent wilting or drying.

Seed Count:  Average 700 seeds per ounce,  4-5lb seeds per acre

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