This category includes two of the oddballs of the vegetable world: huge, silver-tinged, spiky cardoons and swollen globe artichokes in their impenetrable-looking suits of armour. Artichokes have long been considered a delicacy and the whole delicious ritual of eating them -pulling off the leaves one by one, dipping them into a light sauce, and finally devouring the tender, meaty heart – is a reminder that fast food is not the Holy Grail of eating after all; some tastes are worth savouring.
If artichokes are the star, cardoons are the poor relation (like artichokes, they are a kind of thistle, except it is the stalks that are eaten rather than the heads). They have never achieved the popularity of the artichoke and are only really valued in parts of the Mediterranean and Africa. Yet they are easy to cultivate and they have a delicious mild and subtle flavour.