Cardoon, an edible thistle

Cardoon is a type of thistle; it has spiky leaves and a purple flower. It mainly grows in the Mediterranean region. You can eat its flowers, which taste much like artichoke. Cardoon is a healthy vegetable that was already eaten by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The cardoon is a beautiful thistle; it is sometimes placed in a vase as an ornamental flower. It can also enhance the appearance in the garden. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Cardoon / Source: Karelj, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)


  • Cardoon naming
  • Eating cardoon
  • Cardoon history
  • Vegetarian cheese
  • Cardoon as an ornamental plant
  • Cardoon is healthy
  • Cardoon as a raw material for plastic
  • Little commercial cultivation


Cardoon naming

The Latin name of cardoon is Cynara cardunculus . Cynara is the Latin name for artichoke. Cardoon comes from the Latin addition cardunculus, or actually the other way around; the Latin name comes from the common name. In English the plant is called cardoon and in Italian cardi. Not only the flower of cardoon is eaten, but also the leaves and midrib. The longer the cardoon grows, the more bitter it tastes. Early harvested cardoons taste a bit sweeter.

Eating cardoon

The cardoon is mainly eaten in the Mediterranean region, where this plant is often found in the wild. In southern Italy and Sicily it is considered a delicacy. The veins of the cardoon look a bit like celery and taste like artichoke. If you want to eat the leaf, you naturally remove all the spines until you are left with celery-like stems. You only have to blanch these; then taste and nutrients are well preserved.

Cardoon history

The ancient Romans talked about the wild artichoke. That must actually have been cardoon. The plant is closely related to the artichoke. Cardoon has been grown for the vegetable market since the 15th century. Cardoon is mainly eaten in the European part of the Mediterranean.

Vegetarian cheese

Cardoon contains enzymes that can be used in the preparation of vegetarian cheese. Some people think that every cheese is vegetarian, but that is a misconception. Part of the cow’s stomach is used as rennet in cheese making. In Portugal, cheese is still made on a fairly large scale using cardoon instead of rennet.

Cardoon as an ornamental plant

Cardoons are easy to grow in the garden. It is a nice ornamental plant that you can eat in autumn and winter. The plant is also used as a cut flower as it looks beautiful in a mixed bouquet. You can also use the cardoon in a dried flower bouquet.

Cardoon is healthy

Cardoon is good for bile secretion; this makes it generally good for digestion. In addition, the plant contains a reasonable amount of minerals and vitamins; it is a common healthy vegetable. In Southern Europe it is eaten as

Cardoon / Source: Karelj, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

winter vegetable. There is a lot of apigenin and luteolin in cardoon; these phytonutrients help prevent uterine cancer and leukemia.

You can make a delicious soup from cardoons or you can fry the stems and melt Dutch cheese over them.


Cardoon as a raw material for plastic

Cardoon is now used for its oil. The oil from cardoon seeds is suitable for culinary purposes, but it is used to make biodiesel. In Sardinia, the first biomass factory will be completed in 2013, which will produce plastic from vegetable products such as cardoon seed.

Little commercial cultivation

Although the plant grows easily and tastes good, it is rarely grown for commercial reasons. This is mainly because the plant needs a lot of space, which means that relatively few cardoons could grow in a field. Yet cardoon is grown in Spain, Italy, France, Portugal, Australia and Argentina. The plant can grow very well. In the US it is considered an invader because it did not occur naturally there and is currently found everywhere.

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