There was frost last night, and so the time had come for the cardoons to come down.
After their nap under a paper blanket they were pale and celery like, and covered with sow bugs and slugs. Not terribly appetizing. I brought them inside and consulted Alice Waters, who told me to wash them, cut them into three-inch lengths, simmer them for 45 minutes, and then make a gratin with them (cream, salt and pepper, cheese). She also said that young, tender stalks could be eaten raw. I tried a white young thing - and spat it out. It tasted like an aged dandelion. I went on (doubtfully) with the recipe. The moment the water with the cardoons began to simmer, the house was infused with the smell of...artichokes. Amazing.
This was the resulting dinner:
The gratin is hard to see, on the left, eaten with steak and oven fries. The gratin was quite good, with a distinct artichoke flavor, but still with a bitter hit that made it interesting. I'm not sure cardoons would ever make it onto my weekly vegetable rotation, which is all to the good, seeing as getting them onto a plate has been a six month project.