Cardoons are high-maintenance vegetables. They look like very large hearts of celery, but have thorns in the stalks, so handle with care. The stalks are not solid like celery, and are semi-hollow and stringy.
To prepare cardoons, first trim off the bottom and pull apart the stalks. With a vegetable peeler, peel off any leaves and thorns, and then peel the stringy fibers off the stalks. Cut the stalks into three-inch pieces and then soak them in a bowl of water with 2 tablespoons of white vinegar for thirty minutes; the vinegar helps to reduce the bitter taste of cardoons and prevents discoloration.
Most recipes require cardoons to be parboiled. Yes, indeedy, it requires a bit of preparation work before you can actually cook your cardoons. But trust us, the end results are worth it.
(Photo by Kathryn Hill)