Cardo

The remains of the thistle

The thistle plant not only has wonderful purple flowers, but the plant has many features: both paper and oil can be produced from it and wool can be “carded” with it (the verb comes from ‘”cardo,” the Italian name of the plant). In the pre-industrial era, dried thistle flowers were used to clean raw wool before spinning. However, we should focus on the food facts here because thistle is not only edible, but it’s also really tasty.

Thistle an exclusively winter food because, to be suitable for cooking, the plant should be reaped while still young. The plant’s toughest parts, its prickly leaves and spines, should be stripped off before baking the flowers and stems in the oven or trying them raw with “pinzimonio” (a condiment of oil, vinegar and salt). Even the remains are great ingredients, as long as they don’t become black in color. The best advice is to use gloves and always dip these remains in water and lemon to avoid oxidation before freezing them.

Unfortunately, the available amount of edible material is not abundant, but once in the habit of gathering and storing thistles, there will always be enough for tasty recipes. 400 grams of pulp (adding flower, eggs and milk) are enough for a “flan” and 200 grams can be used for a great sauce for some pasta. It’s most important to boil these remains long enough to soften them (defrosting them first is not necessary). The taste is reminiscent of artichoke, but it’s more delicate and doesn’t have the typical metallic aftertaste.

Stefano Bruno

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