In Italy, the average supermarket variety of Cardi on sale looks like a rough textured, perhaps dirty celery, with the tops trimmed off and bound by a twist tie, but in open air produce markets, you might find more choices. Often you will see a very tall (3-4'), straight variety with its thistle looking leaves intact. There is also another called Gobbi, a curved, hunchbacked type.
Blanched Cardi are grown in darkness to produced a very pale color, in the same way white asparagus or white endives are grown by covering the maturing stalks. These are the more expensive and prized for culinary use because their taste is less bitter and they tend to cook faster. Their taste when well-cooked, as I mentioned earlier, is like artichoke, but with a smokey edge and hint of licorice, as with finocchio (bulbing fennel). If you ever decide to grow Cardoon in your garden, always remove the beautiful blue flower heads (they look like thistle flowers) to prevent the plant from dropping seeds or your garden will have hundreds of weedlings coming up next season.
Swiss Chard, or Bietola (in Italian) is a quick-cooking green that is reminiscent of spinach, though sweeter. It comes with white, red, or golden stalks and veins. It is a member of the beet family and is commonly called silverbeet or spinach beet. Obviously, unlike Cardi, the leaves are the important part for culinary use.
Swiss chard leaves can be added raw to salads or on sandwiches or wraps. It can be cooked in a variety of ways: braised, boiled, sautéed or added to soups and casseroles.
The other thing I should mention is that, like Cardi, only the stalks of Rhubarb are eaten. In fact, its leaves can be considered highly toxic. They contain dangerously high levels of oxalic acid which can cause serious kidney stones or permanent damage which could lead to pain or even death. Even a small amount still has the ability to make a person sick.
- 1 bunch cardi
- flour for coating
- oil – (olive oil is my preference)
- Clean and rinse the cardi: remove all the leaves, then using a vegetable peeler, remove bristles on the sides of the stalks, then peel the strings off the back of the stalks.
- Cut stalks into 2 – 3 inch pieces.
- Cook cardi in covered pan with well-salted water until tender (10 – 15 minutes).
- Drain cardi and let cool – enough to handle.
- Combine flour, salt and pepper into a large plastic or paper bag. Place a few pieces of cardi in bag, shake to coat.
- Place floured pieces in skillet with olive oil. Let cook until golden brown on all sides. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining cardi.