Traditional cardone (we pronounced it car-doon-a), also called cardoon, is the stalk on which an artichoke grows. It’s a delicacy that’s only available in specialty Italian markets for a few weeks around Thanksgiving, and I’m betting it is expensive.
But, for my family, it grew wild right out in the yard in the spring and summer.
It’s a safe bet to assume that, when I was a child on our family farm in the 1950s, there were no Italian specialty markets nearby, and if there were, they probably didn’t have traditional cardone. As a matter of fact – I had no idea that there actually was a ‘traditional’ cardone that was not the plant I knew – until a couple of months ago. To me, and to my immediate family, cardone was the Italian name for burdock. Yep – that old roadside weed that makes those annoying, barbed burrs that stick to everything they touch, is none other than the cardone of my childhood. In fact we never called it burdock at all. It has always been, and always will be, cardone.
As luck would have it, there’s a fine patch of cardone growing right near my cabin. And it’s cardone season.
Cardone -Ok, burdock, is usually touted for its edible root. Oddly enough, I’ve never eaten the root and have no idea what it tastes like. When we cook cardone, we’re after the leaf stalks.
The leaves are huge, and the stalk resembles rhubarb. We cut it low to the ground, and remove the leaf, so only the stalk remains. The stalks must be thoroughly washed, and then parboiled.
The larger and older the leaves, the more likely they are to be slightly bitter. Parboiling removes the bitterness, and also prepares the stalks for the next step.
Once the stalks are washed and boiled, we let them cool, then dip them in a beaten egg with a little milk added. Next, they are dredged in seasoned breadcrumbs..
And then fried. I use olive oil, but you could also use any vegetable oil suitable for frying.
Since they are already parboiled, they won’t take too long to fry. Just long enough to brown nicely. Drain them on a paper towel and enjoy!
We made cardone as a side dish, right there with the mashed potatoes and corn and whatever else we were having for supper.
I’m not sure how my father came up with this replacement. I don’t think burdock plants grow in Sicily – maybe they do. Perhaps someone told him about them, or more likely, someone told my father that burdock was edible. Maybe he tasted the roots that someone prepared, and it reminded him of the traditional cardone, and so that is what he called it. My mother doesn’t remember either – to her, it’s just cardone.
Obviously, don’t try this unless you know what a burdock plant looks like!
Here’s a great resource: http://www.sacredearth.com/ethnobotany/foraging/Burdock.php
Mmmmmmm! Life is Good!