Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thistle Soup

Cardoon plant is about 4 ft. across and 3 ft. tall
Not even Eeyore likes to eat thistles. "Hot!" he says. Sharp points, I say. These big cousins to thistles and artichokes have their own share of spines.  The points are definitely not for eating.

I knew nothing about cardoons when I was gifted some seeds last spring. They are cold-hardy perennials, so in the middle of winter, when fresh greens were scarce, my lovely hens celebrated Christmas with a feast of cardoon leaves and thought it was the best.

Since these are the biggest edible thing in my garden right now,  I decided to make a favorite soup from Moosewood's Restaurant Daily Special "Artichoke Heart Soup,"* substituting prepared cardoon stalks for the celery and artichokes.

Can be topped with Parmesan cheese for extra punch

The result was excellent in flavor and texture and was a creative way to use produce on hand.  I love to go into the garden, especially when not much else is yet available, and harvest a good portion of our dinner.

De-stringed, boiled and ready to go.

So if you decide to plant cardoon, here are a few tips: They can be started early spring indoors and moved out.  The outer stalks can be harvested--remove the edge spines and leafy portion.  It will then look much like celery--remove the rib strings.  Cut into 1" lengths and boil in salted water with several tablespoons of lemon juice for one hour or until tender.   Now its ready to be cooked into something that even Eeyore would eat.

(serves 5-6)
1 T olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced onions
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 cups cardoon pieces chopped coarsely in a food processor
1 can chopped tomatoes (14 oz.)
2 cups frozen or fresh peas
4 cups broth--more is you like it thinner
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 t dried basil
1 t salt
1/4 t freshly gourd black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Warm the oil in the large non reactive soup pot and sauté the onions and garlic on medium heat for 5 minutes, until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.  Meanwhile chop the cardoon pieces.  When the onions are golden, add the cardoon and cook for 5 minutes,  continuing to stir.

Stir in the tomatoes, stock, lemon juice, basil, salt and pepper, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook for about 10 minutes.  Stir in the peas.  Heat through.  Serve topped with grated cheese, if you wish.


  1. Never heard of Cardoon. The soup looks good.

    1. If you are fond of artichokes, the flavor here is very similar, and quantities of it are easier to come by than with artichoke hearts. The stalks are big, it's easy to grow and is native to Spain where it is used frequently. Not likely to find it in the grocery store.