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Plant Information

Common Name: CARDOON
Scientific Name: Cynara cardunculus

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Cynara cardunculus
Cynara cardunculus


  • Biennial
  • Cardoon, a close cousin of the artichoke, is native to the western and central Mediterranean region - it is grown as a common vegetable in northern Africa, Spain, Portugal and Italy. Cardoon is a stout herbaceous perennial that can grow up to 0.8 to 1.5 m tall and 1m wide.
  • It has large, prickly, almost dagger-shaped gray-green arching leaves up to 50cm long and bears numerous round, purple, thistle-like flowers in midsummer.
  • It is draught tolerant, will grow in any soil type in full sun and is hardy to about -10°c.
  • Cardoon can tolerate strong winds but not maritime exposure.
  • If grown for culinary use - the stalks or ribs are blanched by tying them together and wrapping them round with straw or other material, which is then tied up with cord and left so for about three weeks.
  • Cardoon is a very ornamental foliage plant that will make a very attractive feature in the flower garden.

Culinary Uses

  • Cardoon leaf stalks and midribs are tasty when blanched - they look like large celery stalks, can be served steamed or braised and have an artichoke-like flavour.
  • Unopened flower heads can be boiled and eaten like artichokes.
  • Only the base of each bract is eaten, plus the 'heart' or base that the petals grow from.
  • In Portugal, dried Cardoon flowers are used as a traditional vegetable curdling agent for cheese production.

Parts Used

  • Leaf stalks are harvested in winter and spring, being best just before the plant flowers.
  • The leaves are best harvested just before the plant flowers, and can be used fresh or dried.
  • The flower buds are harvested just before the flowers open.

Medicinal Uses. It is said that

  • Cardoon contains cynarin, a bitter-tasting compound found in the leaves.
  • Cynarin improves liver and gall bladder function, stimulates the secretion of digestive juices, especially bile and lowers blood cholesterol levels.
  • The leaves are anti-rheumatic, diuretic, lithontripic (dissolving/destroying stone in the bladder or kidneys) and treat chronic liver/gall bladder diseases, jaundice, hepatitis, arteriosclerosis and the early stages of late-onset diabetes.
  • Cardoon contains Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, C, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zink.

Other Uses

  • The flower heads can be cut and dried for use in dried flower arrangements.
  • The leaves are long lasting in water and can be used in flower arrangements.
  • Cardoon seeds can be a possible source of biodiesel.
  • The oil extracted from the seeds (called artichoke oil), is similar to safflower and sunflower oil in composition and use.
The information contained within this website is for educational purposes only. This site merely recounts the traditional uses of specific plants as recorded through history. Always seek advice from a medical practitioner.

Mountain Herb Estate, and its representatives will not be held responsible for the improper use of any plants or documentation provided. By use of this site and the information contained herein you agree to hold harmless Mountain Herb Estate, its affiliates and staff
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