Indoors, if youre starting seeds for your garden, its time to start cardoon and artichoke seeds. Theyre both large plants and both may be used for food, although many of us grow cardoon more for its ornamental value.
Cardoon grows large, no more than about a yard tall, but with silvery leaves arching out four to five feet in length. The large, usually prickly-leaved plant contrasts nicely with green and red foliage in your ornamental garden or food garden.
It is a popular food in the Mediterranean area, folks harvesting the leaves, tearing off the outsides of the leaves and using only the midrib, removing the strings similar to celery strings, then simmering or steaming sections of that midrib until tender. These cut pieces will darken unless treated with lemon juice or quickly dropped into cold water. They taste, Im told, similar to that of artichokes.
They should be grown quickly, so that means with a nitrogen boost.
Most instructions Ive seen advise waiting until September, then harvesting cardoon. Some advise blanching prior to harvest, but its impossible to blanch those long leaves.
An Israeli acquaintance told my friend in Ireland they remove a stalk or two from the growing plant when the midrib is still brittle, then prepare it for table, in a soup, stew, or dribbled with brown butter.
Cardoon is one of the first food plants grown by early humans, according to seeds found by archaeologists. It is and has been hugely popular in Italy for centuries, even though one of the most expensive vegetables in the Roman Empire.
Commercial artichoke growers use perennial varieties, but home gardeners should plant Imperial Star, bred to produce its first season. Artichokes from this plant wont be as large as some commercial artichokes, but theyll have nicer flavor.
This is the best month to prune your table grape vines. Why must we prune them? To control the vines, keep them short enough that the fruit will be sweet and well supplied with nutrients, and so that the bunches of fruit will be well-filled.
Grape vines, once established, are amazingly robust. When we replaced our back fence, we had to drastically cut back a Himrod grape vine. I feared it would not survive, but it took off and sent out vigorous vines running up to over ten feet in length. This was a gift from my friend, the late Ross Hadfield, and I did not want to lose that vine, so I immediately rooted cuttings as we cut the whole vine back for fence installation. All struck, so I gave others red Himrod grape vines.
There is no one-method-fits-all instruction for pruning table grapes. An excellent source is Lon Romboughs book, The Grape Grower, A Guide to Organic Viticulture. I think methods of pruning wine grapevines are different from those of table grapes.
Hadfield taught a grape pruning class for Boise community education for many years, until shortly before he passed last year. They havent found another instructor so theyre not offering it this year.
Other woody plant pruning may be done now too, but dont cut back on spring-blossoming shrubs until after theyve bloomed. Pruning at this time of year will stimulate more vegetative growth later this year than pruning in summer.
Send garden questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.