Growing Cardoon Plants In Your Yard
Considered by some to be just an invasive weed and by others as a culinary delight, cardoon plants are a member of the thistle family, and in appearance, are very similar to the globe artichoke; indeed it is also referred to as the artichoke thistle. The cardoon plants was grown as a food crop in medieval Greece, Rome and Europe, and was introduced to the United States in the 1790s by the Quakers. It remained a vital part of the early American vegetable garden, until falling out of favor in the late 1800s. Today, the vegetable is still cultivated in Spain and Italy, but remains relatively unknown in other parts of Europe and North America. In appearance, the cardoon plant is quite striking, with large thistle-like purple flowers, wide green leaves, and flower stalks which are similar to those of celery.
The stalks are most often covered with small, invisible spines which can lodge in the skin when handled, and cause pain and irritation. There are several spineless varieties available, but care should always be taken in handling the plant to avoid injury. The stalks of the cardoon plants are high in natural sodium, but are also a good source of calcium, potassium and iron. They make a good crop for composting, due to the large amount of fibrous leaves and stalks produced by the plants.