A large PERENNIAL growing to 2m with at least a 1m spread. Cardoon is a thistle-like plant in the sunflower family and grows to be a stout plant with large, deeply lobed and heavily spined green to grey-green leaves. Flowers are violet-purple, produced in a large, globose, massively spined flowerhead.
It can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soil although it prefers well-drained soil in full sun. Somewhat drought tolerant it can grow in saline soil.
Flowers, leaves, roots and stems are eaten. Flower buds are eaten as a globe artichoke substitute. Some important medicinal use, and can be used as a dye plant.
Flower buds are smaller than globe artichoke and may be a bit fiddly to eat, but has a delicate taste, while the stem is blanched and eaten raw or cooked although it is very bitter.
The young leaves can be eaten as a salad, or cooked. Root can be cooked like parsnips and has an agreeable flavour. The dried flowers can be used to curdle milk.
It has become an important medicinal herb for liver and gall-bladder problems among other applications.