Cardoons everywhere

Posted by November 3, 2014 Books, Paris 4 Comments

Springtime in Paris gets all the acclaim, the song April in Paris celebrates the beauty of that time of year – the classic rendition is by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. While I love April in Paris too, November, a month that is often derided in the northern hemisphere, is a great time to be in this city. Not only are cardoons available in the markets, they are growing in the public parks, like the Luxembourg gardens.  Anyone who knows me, or who has read Bitter knows I’m passionate about cardoons.


I was thrilled to learn that Aya Brackett, the photographer for Bitter, won a prestigious award for her images in the book. You will be very impressed when you see who the judges were. Aya took a beautiful photograph of cardoons that you can see on her blog post, if you don’t have the book yet.

When I talk to journalists about my book Bitter, it’s often pointed out to me that cardoons are not easy to buy in the USA. This is true, but it shouldn’t be the case. Cardoons are grown commercially in California, so if there was more demand, they would be readily available. (By the way you can find cardoons at Fiesta Farms in Toronto). Think back 10 years, how easy was it to buy radicchio? Consumers can create the demand, so it is up to you to help me make cardoons more popular. It is true that they require work to prepare, but they’re are worth it. Their bitterness makes them perfect in rich braises, or cooked under a blanket of béchamel and cheese. You can also eat the inside stalks raw in salad or with a dip.

We should also celebrate cardoons by planting them in our gardens, so we can enjoy their beautiful silvery foliage.


  • johanna says:

    dear ms. mclagan-

    i hope you and yours are thriving this fall-

    I’m a devoted fan–you eat and write about everything i love—both with my instincts and my taste buds 🙂 thank you-

    i have a question: can one eat artichoke stems (and leaves?) the same way as cardoons? i grow artichokes (they are my favorite vegetable, they truly make me feel good) and have always wondered: ”why not eat those amazing leaves and stems?”



    • Hello Johanna,
      It is nice to know I have a fan. I always eat the stems that come with artichokes (it can be up to 8 inches long depending where I buy them). I cut them off, peel them and cook them along with the artichoke heads. The outside can be quite fibrous, but in the centre is a delicious nugget exactly like the artichoke bottom. As for the leaves, I’m guessing you mean those on the stems, they are probably edible, I have never tried them. They may be quite bitter like those on cardoon stems.

  • johanna says:

    good i’m glad you eat the stem too-
    i’ll try the artichoke leaves–maybe i’ll use the leaf Ribs, like the cardoons, and report back…
    if harvested early enough, can one eat the cardoon heads/flower, like artichokes?