Last spring I experimented with eating the stalk, like so many early Greeks and Romans. Cardoons were kept by colonial Americans as well, served often in the early spring or late fall as a culinary delight. They are currently enjoying a bit of a modern comeback. Mario Batali describes cardoons as having a "sexy flavor." I agree.
I just learned that the cardoon is a vegetarian source for a cheese making enzyme, responsible for particular varieties of earthy, artisan cheeses.
I am very fond of the entire plant. I like it's style. It is a wonderful showpiece for the garden and a welcome addition to the table.
I enjoy the stalks boiled and tossed, with nothing more than lemon, garlic, butter, sea salt and pepper.
*6 tender cardoon stalks
*wedge of fresh lemon
*1 Tbsp butter
*1 garlic clove, pressed
*sea salt and pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Trim away leaf material from stalk. Rinse. If stalks are mature, scrape away the fibrous stings using a sharp knife. Cut into pieces. Boil until tender, about 15 minutes. Toss in a medium bowl with remaining ingredients. Enjoy!
I have read that you can add a bit of milk to the boiling water to help the cardoons
retain color, but I have never had any trouble with color fading.
*Cardoons are a wonderful source of vitamin C, B6, calcium, folate, magnesium, potassium, manganese, copper, phosphorus, and of course, dietary fiber.