Is There A Flower That Looks Like An Artichoke?

Did you know there’s a flower that looks like an artichoke, and it is mainly confused by gardeners who think it is the same plant?

The cardoon or Cynara cardunculus is a close relative to the artichoke or Cynara scolymus. Both of these plants are members of the Asteraceae family, also called the daisy family. This includes sunflowers, echinaceas, and chrysanthemums.

The cardoon looks a lot like a cross between an artichoke and a thistle. It produces beautiful thistle-like flowers but does not produce fruit like artichoke. Instead, it has celery-like stalks that are considered a tasty delicacy, either cooked or eaten fresh.

The cardoon is a beautiful ornamental tropical-looking plant often grown as an architectural plant among the dahlias and verbenas. Its large silver leaves and sculpture-like shape fits nicely as a seasonal accent feature in mixed borders.

A Flower That Looks Like An Artichoke – The Physical Differences

Both cardoons and artichokes are widely cultivated in the USDA plant hardiness zones 7 to 9. They are grown both for their ornamental features and edible parts. They both possess violet thistle-like flowers and silver foliage.

Artichokes produce large flower buds with a more globular shape tighter and less pronounced spines. In contrast, small sharp spines cover the cardoon stalks and could cause severe pain if they prick your skin. It is therefore essential to wear gloves when handling stems or flowers of the cardoons.

Cardoons have less tidy growth habits than artichokes, although both plants grow to roughly 3 to 5 feet in height.

A Flower That Looks Like An Artichoke - The Physical Differences

Cardoon’s History

Cardoon is native to the Mediterranean region and was treasured in Greek-Roman and Persian cuisines. This plant remained popular and most common in American colonial gardens during the mediaeval and early modern European times.

Although it lost its popularity in the 19th century, its reputation as original favourite in Spain, France, and Italy continues to grow. These countries produce about 100 metric tons of cardoons annually. The acclaimed iron chef Mario Batali uses the cardoon as one of his favourite vegetables.

The reputation of this leafy vegetable is beginning to grow in America.

Cardoon’s Modern Growth And Uses

The cardoon is a tender perennial plant that looks like a cross between celery and burdock and carries a flavour close to the artichoke.

Use the leaves and stems steamed or braised in soups or fried. This plant is loaded with vitamins B and C and iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.

David’s Garden Seeds Cardoon Porto Spineless 8374 (Green) 50 Non-GMO

The cardoon adapts well to the Redlands dry Mediterranean like climate. It prefers at least 6 hours of sun each day but tolerates partial shade. When growing yet treated the same way you would treat an artichoke.

Plant your cardoon in rich, well-drained soil and use fertilizer for better yields. Provide adequate water allowing it to dry in between waterings. The plant will grow to about 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide; therefore, it is not suitable to grow it in containers. The cardoon has no serious disease problems except aphids that love to feast on it.

Edible Parts Of The Flower That Looks Like Artichokes

Cardoons and artichokes have a similar nutty flavour due to the close relationship even though you eat different parts of their plants.

For artichokes, consume the large overdeveloped flower buds both the fleshy heart and the petals. Cardoons have soft young leaves, immature flower stalks that you can enjoy raw or cooked.

Like celery or rhubarb, cardoon stalks taste best when blanched in the garden before harvesting. Wrap the bottom part of the plant to keep the sunlight out. The stems are popularly battered or fried.

You can boil the main root eat it cold. This plant is also used to flavour liquor and incorporated into cheese production. It is also used for cooking oils as a source of biodiesel fuel and feedstock.

You can use this plant as a medicinal plant; some say it has mild laxative qualities. It also contains cynarin that has cholesterol-lowering effects, although it cannot exceed the artichokes cynarin component.

Edible Parts Of The Flower That Looks Like Artichokes

Cardoon Planting

Start the seeds indoors in the late winter or early spring. After the danger of frost passes, transplant the seedlings outside. You can also plant from the divided cardoon plants in early spring, leaving plenty of space for growth.

Cartoons can grow nutritional processes, but they prefer deep rich soils and full sun. Cardoon seeds are available for around 7 years after ripening, starting from September to October.

Harvesting The Artichoke Looking Flower

Cardoons are much larger and harder than artichokes. Some people eat the tender flower buds while others at the fleshy, thick leaf stalks that require plentiful irrigation for healthy growth.

Before harvesting cardoon leaf stalks, you will need to blanch them first. Do this by tying the plant into a bundle, wrapping it with straw, mounding the soil and leaving them for one month.

Cardoon plants harvested for culinary purposes are treated as annuals and harvested during the winter months in areas where there are mild winters from November to February. They are then sowed afresh in early spring.

You can eat the tender leaves and stocks fresh in salads and the branched portions used like celery in stews and soups.

When harvesting, use gardening gloves as the cardoon stem has small, almost invisible spines that can be dangerous. However, there are spineless varieties available for the home gardener.

Other Flowers That Look Like Artichokes

Artichoke flowers are flowers that look like artichokes. Specifically, the flowers of an actual artichoke plant (Cynara scolymus). These flowers came up during spring/summer in dry weather conditions and could be considered very pretty flowers. It’s said there were many varieties of these flowers, each with varying flowers and colours.

List of flowers that look like artichoke flowers:

  • Rabbit Ears (Camelina sativa)
  • Wild Chamomile (Matricaria discoidea)
  • Field Mustard (Brassica rapa)
  • Wild Fennel (Nigella arvensis)
  • Annual Wormwood (Artemisia annua)

This list isn’t exhaustive and more flowers could look like artichoke flowers.

Conclusion

Though the cardoon is a flower that looks like an artichoke, it does not continuously bloom in colder climates.  this is because the growing season is not long enough for blooming to happen.

Its violet-purple flowers, set in a heavily spined head, are about 2 inches in diameter. Bees and other pollinators love these flowers. Left alone under the right conditions, this plant can succeed and become invasive in mild climates.

Why not try and grow your cardoons -the flower that looks like artichoke and see how it does.  Please share your cardoon growing journey with us.  It will inspire all of us gardeners in our gardening journey.

Or have you already started out on some cardoon plants, let us know your experience.