Artichoke Thistle

The nice thing about artichokes, cardoon (artichoke thistle), and arugula is they have few pests that bother them (few people too, but that’s another story).  Even though I’ve been battling deer, grasshoppers, and armadillos, Kathy reminded me that rabbits have caused havoc in her garden.  It might be surprising that there are none here, except that our property seems to be in the hawks’ territory.  Hey, maybe I should just make rabbit costumes for the other pests.  At least it would be more entertaining.  I can picture it now!

This is the Italian vegetable, cardoon, that I’ve been familiar with since childhood.  I’ve mentioned them in a previous post about the garden, click here to see a picture of the plant.  It was so beautiful when it came out last the spring, I couldn’t bear to chop part of it down.  After it bloomed, it died back to the ground, but now there’s lots of new growth, and I’m ready to cook it.

In the northeast, cardoon grow wild, and my relatives collected it to cook.  They always referred to it as burdock, which happens to be the same plant the Asian burdock root comes from.  Once prepared cardoon can be deep fried, but I love them most in frittatas.  It takes a bit of work to get them prepared for a recipe, but since it’s not something I do all the time, it’s a treat, and worth the effort.  The more green the stem, the more bitter.  As the plant gets a little more mature the ribs are wide and more whitish in color, and less bitter.  I cooked the rib of the leaves, but when the plant starts to put out a flower stem, you can cook the young stem also.

Cardoon Frittata

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: Serves 2


  • 1 bunch cardoon
  • 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)


  1. Prepare cardoon by stripping the leafy part off the stem (and throw that leafy part in the compost pile). Then strip the strings from the stem like you would for celery. Cut stem into about 2" pieces (I left mine larger). I soaked the pieces in salted water overnight, but if your pieces are whiter, you can skip this step. Then boil them in salted water until tender. Drain well, and now you're ready to rock and roll.
  2. Add oil and garlic to a skillet and saute a few minutes. Remove garlic.
  3. Add cardoon to the skillet and saute about 10 minutes.
  4. Beat eggs, cheese, salt and pepper together. Pour over cardoon, lower heat, and cover pan.
  5. When eggs are set, the frittata is ready.