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Cynara cardunculus - L.                
                 
Common Name Cardoon
Family Asteraceae or Compositae
Synonyms
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Stony or waste places and in dry grassland, usually on clay[50].
Range S. Europe.
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Care
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun

Summary       

Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of flower
Cynara cardunculus is a PERENNIAL growing to 2 m (6ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in).
It is hardy to zone 6 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Aug to September, and the seeds ripen from Sep to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, lepidoptera.

USDA hardiness zone : Coming soon


Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

Cynara cardunculus Cardoon


Cynara cardunculus Cardoon
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cynara_cardunculus_(Kalmthout).jpg
   
Habitats       
Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Cultivated Beds;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Flowers;  Leaves;  Root;  Stem.
Edible Uses: Curdling agent.

Flower buds - raw or cooked[33, 105]. A globe artichoke substitute[183]. The flower buds are a bit smaller than the globe artichoke and so are even more fiddly to use[K]. The buds are harvested just before the flowers open, they are then usually boiled before being eaten. Only the base of each bract is eaten, plus the 'heart' or base that the petals grow from [K]. The flavour is mild and pleasant and is felt by some people to be more delicate than the globe artichoke[K]. Stems - cooked and used as a celery substitute[2, 27, 33, 46, 61]. It is best to earth up the stems as they grow in order to blanch them and reduce their bitterness[4], these blanched stems can then be eaten cooked or in salads[105, 132, 183]. In Italy raw strips of the stems are dipped into olive oil[183]. We find these stems to be too bitter when eaten raw[K]. Young leaves - raw or cooked. Eaten as a salad by the ancient Romans[183]. Rather bitter[K]. Root - cooked like parsnips[27, 105, 183]. Tender, thick and fleshy, with an agreeable flavour[183]. The dried flowers are a rennet substitute, used for curdling plant milks[105, 183].
Medicinal Uses


Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Anticholesterolemic;  Cholagogue;  Digestive;  Diuretic.

The cardoon has become important as a medicinal herb in recent years following the discovery of cynarin. This bitter-tasting compound, which is found in the leaves, improves liver and gall bladder function, stimulates the secretion of digestive juices, especially bile, and lowers blood cholesterol levels[238, 254]. The leaves are anticholesterolemic, antirheumatic, cholagogue, digestive, diuretic, hypoglycaemic and lithontripic[7, 21, 165]. They are used internally in the treatment of chronic liver and gall bladder diseases, jaundice, hepatitis, arteriosclerosis and the early stages of late-onset diabetes[238, 254]. The leaves are best harvested just before the plant flowers, and can be used fresh or dried[238].
Other Uses
Dye.

The plant is said to yield a good yellow dye[4], though the report does not say which part of the plant is used.
Cultivation details                                         
Prefers a light warm soil and an open position in full sun[37, 200]. For best results, this plant requires plenty of moisture in the growing season and a good rich soil[16, 27, 33, 37], though another report says that it is drought tolerant once established[190]. Plants grew very well with us in the hot and very dry summer of 1995, though they were looking very tatty by September[K]. Tolerates most soils including heavy clays of both acid and alkaline nature, especially when grown in heavier or more spartan soils[200]. Plants are reasonably wind resistant[200, K]. This species is hardy to about -10°c[187]. Plants are more likely to require protection from winter cold when they are grown in a heavy soil[190]. Wet winters can do more harm than cold ones[K]. At one time the cardoon was often grown for its edible stems but it has now fallen into virtual disuse[132]. There are some named varieties[183]. It is a very ornamental foliage plant and makes a very attractive feature in the garden. The leaves are long lasting in water and are often used in flower arrangements[233]. Recent taxonomic revisions (1999) have seen the globe artichoke being merged into this species. However, since from the gardener's point of view it is quite a distinctive plant, we have decided to leave it with its own entry in the database under Cynara scolymus[K]. Plants seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits[233].
                                                                                 
Propagation                                         
Seed - sow early spring in a greenhouse. Germination is usually quick and good, prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant them out into their permanent positions during the summer. It would be prudent to give the plants some winter protection in their first year. The seed can also be sown in situ in April. Sow the seed 2cm deep, putting 2 or 3 seeds at each point that you want a plant[1]. Protect the seed from mice[1]. Division of suckers. This is best done in November and the suckers overwintered in a cold frame then planted out in April. Division can also be carried out in March/April with the divisions being planted out straight into their permanent positions, though the plants will be smaller in their first year.
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Expert comment                                         
 
      
Author                                         
L.
                                                                                 
Botanical References                                         
50200
                                                                                 
Links / References                                         

  [K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[1]F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
[2]Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
[4]Grieve. A Modern Herbal.
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
[7]Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
[16]Simons. New Vegetable Growers Handbook.
A good guide to growing vegetables in temperate areas, not entirely organic.
[21]Lust. J. The Herb Book.
Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book.
[27]Vilmorin. A. The Vegetable Garden.
A reprint of a nineteenth century classic, giving details of vegetable varieties. Not really that informative though.
[33]Organ. J. Rare Vegetables for Garden and Table.
Unusual vegetables that can be grown outdoors in Britain. A good guide.
[37]Thompson. B. The Gardener's Assistant.
Excellent general but extensive guide to gardening practices in the 19th century. A very good section on fruits and vegetables with many little known species.
[46]Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants.
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
[50]? Flora Europaea
An immense work in 6 volumes (including the index). The standard reference flora for europe, it is very terse though and with very little extra information. Not for the casual reader.
[61]Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
[105]Tanaka. T. Tanaka's Cyclopaedia of Edible Plants of the World.
The most comprehensive guide to edible plants I've come across. Only the briefest entry for each species, though, and some of the entries are more than a little dubious. Not for the casual reader.
[132]Bianchini. F., Corbetta. F. and Pistoia. M. Fruits of the Earth.
Lovely pictures, a very readable book.
[165]Mills. S. Y. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism.
An excellent small herbal.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[187]Phillips. R. & Rix. M. Perennials Volumes 1 and 2.
Photographs of over 3,000 species and cultivars of ornamental plants together with brief cultivation notes, details of habitat etc.
[190]Chatto. B. The Dry Garden.
A good list of drought resistant plants with details on how to grow them.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[233]Thomas. G. S. Perennial Garden Plants
A concise guide to a wide range of perennials. Lots of cultivation guides, very little on plant uses.
[238]Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
[254]Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.

Readers comment                                         
 
Elizabeth H.
Carissa Chiniaeff Sun Oct 19 2008
Can anyone send me a recipe for using Cardoon as rennet in cheese making? I have looked all over for specifics. Is it the dried flower or the purple fresh flower? Is it the whole flower?
Elizabeth H.
guido montgomery Sun Dec 14 2008
carissa, here in portugal dried cardoon flowers are routinely used in cheese-making, usually with sheep's milk. i make cheese from goat's milk using the dried flowers; i put a large pinch in an eggcupful of hot water (around 45-50 degrees celsius) with a small pinch of salt, stir and leave to macerate for an hour before adding to 4 to 5 litres milk. it works best at temps between 25 and 32 degrees; i add it after the milk (unpasteurised) has sat with sour milk starter for about one hour. takes 8-12 hours to form curd. the longer the better.

the artisan cheesemaker excellent site on cheesemaking

Elizabeth H.
Fri Nov 6 2009
I have eaten the fresh goat`s cheese Guido makes and it is absolutely delicious!
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