Cardy is a vegetable closely related to the artichoke. Bleached, the stems are a delight. Here is how to plant, care for and harvest the cardoon.
Cardy (Cynara cardunculus), also called cardone, cardoon, or artichoke thistle, is a vegetable of the composite family (Asteraceae). The thistle-like plant is closely related to the artichoke (Cynara scolymus) and originates from the Mediterranean region. There the cardoon is a delicacy. Harvested and prepared are only the up to one meter (40 in) long and bleached leaf stalks with their artichoke-like flavor.
Appearance and growth
Cardy is cultivated as a vegetable plant for one year, as an ornamental plant in its native regions it can also be grown as a biennial. From a rosette, the plant sprouts a sturdy stem with the leaves. These are up to one and a half meter (5 ft) long, deeply incised, spiny and silvery green with pale and thick-fleshed petioles. From the second year of standing, the large, blue-purple thistle flowers appear from July to September, but they do not have a fleshy receptacle like the flowers of the related artichoke.
Location and soil
Cardone requires a sunny and warm location. The vegetable grows best in loose, humus-rich, deep soil in vineyard climates. If you are cultivating Cardy primarily as an ornamental plant, it works well as a specimen plant in perennial beds. However, it can also be combined well with grasses.
In wine-growing regions, you can sow cardy directly in the open in late April to early May. When doing so, you should place three to four seeds in a seed hole about 5 centimeters (2 inches) deep. However, it is recommended that you preplant the vegetable. To do this, sow the seeds in mid-February to April at room temperature in trays with growing soil. After about three weeks, the plants are pricked out into pots about 10 centimeters in size, cultivated further at 15 °C / 59 °F and then planted out from mid-May. A planting distance of 100 by 100 centimeters (40x 40 inches) is advisable.
Cardy is a heavy feeder and needs warmth, water and nutrients to thrive. To keep the soil sufficiently loose, you should hoe it regularly. Sufficient watering is also necessary. Mulching will help keep the heat and water in the soil. Occasional additions of mature compost and plant manure will boost yields.
Diseases and pests
Cardy is considered extremely hardy to plant diseases and pests.
Cardy tolerates frosts as low as -4 °C / 25 °F and is generally less sensitive to frost than artichoke. However, if a longer frost period threatens, winter protection is advisable.
Crop rotation and mixed cropping
Good neighbors for this relatively tall vegetable are lettuce, spinach and kohlrabi planted between the cardoons. As a heavy feeder, cardoon ranks first in crop rotation.
Harvest and utilization
Harvested are the thick, fleshy and tart-aromatic leaf stalks of the cardoon with a length of about 40 to 50 centimeters (16 to 20 in). It is recommended to bleach the petioles, as they then develop a milder flavor. From the end of August, you can carefully tie the petioles together loosely with some mulch film and twine on the plant for this purpose, so that only the head is sticking out. To prevent the tied leaves from falling over, you can also support them with rods and pile them up. It takes about two to four weeks until the leaves are pale. Then it is important to use them very fresh, otherwise they will become chewy. Cut the bleached petioles a few centimeters above the ground, remove the spines, fibrous leaf bases, and peel off some of the skin. To prevent the petioles from turning black after peeling, place them in vinegar water.
The stems taste less bitter if you boil them in lemon water for five to seven minutes, otherwise, salt water will do. Cardy tastes good cut into small pieces, blanched with salt and pepper, seasoned as a vegetable side dish or as a vegetarian or vegan main course. Cardy supports the function of liver and gall bladder with its bitter substances. You can also harvest the cardoon along with the root balls as a winter vegetable, cut off the upper leaves and wrap the vegetable in sand boxes in the cool cellar.