Cardoons grow wild in many places and are easily gathered if you know what to look for. Many Italian produce markets sell them in the fall and winter. They grow in bunches resembling grayish green celery, though they have a dull, almost fuzzy texture. They are typically sold with the top leaves cut off, because they grow rather large and take up a lot of space.
Italians eat cardoons a variety of ways. In Piedmont they even eat tender cardoons raw with the hot oil bath called Bagna Cauda (Piedmontese Hot Bath, see Antipasti), though the cardoons sold in the United States are too tough and bitter for that. They need to be cooked before using, and the exact cooking time will depend on how mature they are. Once cooked, they can be dressed with a variety of sauces, coated with batter and fried, added to salads or soups, or used in any recipe that calls for artichoke hearts.
From "1,000 Italian Recipes." Copyright 2004 by Michele Scicolone. Used with permission of the publisher, Wiley Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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