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Cardoon has been grown as a vegetable in France and was brought to North America in the 1790's by French Quakers, though it never caught on widely here. Whether you eat it or not, it's worth growing for its sheer ornamental value. The plants grow to a statuesqye 4-6' with huge, serrated leaves that are a silvery-grey and giant purple thistlehead flowers. A biennial, cardoon produces its flower in its second year and is hardy to Z6. The stalks are eaten in soups, stews and salads and are often tied up to blanche. Cultivation: Sow seed indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost by sowing 1/4" deep in moist soil-less mix. Keep moist, under lights, at 25 C, until germination. Transplant out when the soil has warmed, thin to 2 - 3' apart. Cardoon plants like rich soil.
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