Etymology: from the Latin cardus, “thistle,” via French
There is some controversy among botanists over the origins of the cardoon and the artichoke. Are they two distinct plants? Or are they related plants, one (the artichoke) chosen for its edible floral anthodium or head, and the other (the cardoon) for its edible ribs? A common ancestor is probably at the origin of these two species: wild cardoon, which is found throughout the Mediterranean basin, and which the Greeks called Lactos. Roman horticulturists, by means of careful selection, created a vegetable adapted to the various growing regions of the empire.
It was Huguenot farmers from southern France who brought this plant to Geneva in the 16th century, growing it at Plainpalais, south of the city. After the Edict of Nantes was revoked, new emigrants extended the culture of cardoons to the region between Arve and Rhône.
Not just roses have thorns – so do the best cardoons! The spiny silver Plainpalais cardoon from Geneva is the first to obtain an AOC: a reserved label of origin, as for wines.
This huge plant (it can reach one and a half metres in height!) is the product of a long selection and careful cross-breeding between the smooth solid cardoon, white cardoon, Spanish artichoke-leaved cardoon, prickly Tours cardoon and red-stemmed cardoon.
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