Wild Artichoke (Cynara cardunculus)

Wild Artichoke
Wild Artichoke heads

Common names: Wild Artichoke, Cardoon, Artichoke Thistle

Taxonomic name: Cynara cardunculus

Family: Asteracea

Uses: food

Area of origin: Mediterranean

Warnings: Very, very prickly

Farmers curse the appearance of this purple flowered, prickly Summer invader, but I secretly rejoice!

Wild Artichokes (Cynara cardunculus) are full of spikes, thistles and sharp bits, but can be quite tasty if you know how to get the bits you want.

Wild Artichoke
Wild Artichoke is a plant to forage, not to grow unless you have lots of space

Of course, you want to look for young plants early in the season. Old ones taste horrible and are dangerous to your hands and eyes (not whats in them, but the spikes on them).

Remove the spikes from young leaves and eat the mid rib and a couple of centimetres around that and you will have a pleasant green that you can munch on raw, but is much better cooked lightly,

The taproots are edible too, but are kind of bland, they remind me of turnips in their taste.

Wild Artichoke
Wild Artichoke in the wild

The best bit to go for, though, is the crown – that’s where the leaves attach to the root and a couple of centimetres, out to where the spines begin.

The flower buds (Artichoke hearts) can be eaten before they open unopened, just like the garden variety Artichoke, the base of the little scales on the head are tasty and pretty easy to get at, though when you look at the size of a mature plant, you may wonder if you’re getting a good return on your time.

Before you rush out to pick Wild Artichokes, there is one note. A little while after picking, various parts start to turn black. I guess this is the Wild Artichoke’s way of telling us to hurry up and eat!

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