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Cardoon

A popular vegetable in southern Europe, the cardoon is an edible thistle related to the artichoke. Cardoons are cultivated for their fleshy, ribbed stalks, similar in flavour to a combination of celery and artichoke. Like celery, cardoon is often cultivated in the dark (blanched) as this makes the stalks more tender. This is done by either covering the stalks with mounds of dirt, or wrapping cardboard cylinders around the stems. When cooking cardoons, peel off any tough outer ribs before use. They brown very quickly, so should be cut into pieces with a stainless steel knife and put immediately into water with a squeeze of lemon juice. Cardoons can be braised or baked, but are usually boiled slowly, then baked with butter. They can be topped with Parmesan, béchamel sauce or anchovy butter. In Italy, tender, young cardoons are traditionally eaten raw with bagna caôda, or deep–fried in batter and served as antipasto. They can also be used to top bruschetta or mixed with cheese as a filling for ravioli or tortellini.