Cynara cardunculus

Cynara cardunculus

The thistle (Cynara cardunculus L.) is a plant species belonging to the Asteraceae family which is divided into three subspecies.

Systematic –
The Cardo belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, the Kingdom Plantae, the Magnoliophyta Division, the Magnoliopsida Class, the Asterales Order, the Asteraceae Family, the Subfamily Cichorioideae, the Cardueae Tribe, the Echinopsidinae Subotribe and then the Genre Cynara and the Specie C. cardunculus.
The genus includes one species. Originally from the Mediterranean basin, which is currently divided into three subspecies:
• Cynara cardunculus L. subsp. Cardunculus (in this tab described)
• Cynara cardunculus subsp. Scalymus (L.) Hayek, the highest plant, with fleshy scales with no thorns or weak spines, larger peaks (Ø 8-10 cm) and leaves up to 1 m long, pennatox or whole, often without thorns. The latter is the common artichoke cultivated in its many varieties and is not known spontaneously, but adventio and subspontaneo.
• Cynara cardunculus subsp. Flavescens Wiklund presents morphological differences to the involuntary brattees and in a recent taxonomic review it has been recognized as an independent subspecies and separated by subsp. Cardunculus. In the Italian flora it is present only in Sicily.

Etymology –
The name of this genus comes from gr. “Kynàra”, canine, in reference to hard shell tips as compared to a dog’s teeth. The first descriptions date back to the Greek historian Theofrasto and probably was wild artichoke. The specific epithet of lat. “Carduus” with diminutive “unculus”, which is a small thistle.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The thistle grows in arid pastures, pastures, road edges, from 0 to 1800 m above sea level. Cynara cardunculus has a strong adaptability to the Mediterranean environment, which basically concretizes in a growing season, which coincides with the time when Have the highest natural water inputs and accumulations in the roots of reserve substances that can support vegetative reactivation after the summer quiescence.

Description –
Cynara cardunculus is a robust emicryptic species, that is, a perennial herbaceous plant that entrusts its survival, as well as achens, to specific gems placed at the level of the surface of the soil, brought to the basal fraction of the stem and the rhizomes.
The flowering axis is erect, branched at the time of bloom, robust, longitudinally streaked and provided with alternate leaves. The branches of the flower axis carry, in the terminal position, the inflorescences. The height varies from 40 cm to 250 cm.
The flowers are hermaphroditic, tubular, typical of the Asteraceae and are assembled in a cap inflorescence called calatide. These with a full maturity also reach over 8 mm, have a purple-blue color of various shades, but mutants of white color can also be found. The fruit is a tetragon-coated achenio, dark gray and mottled, combined with the goblet turned to pappa, to promote dissemination. The weight of one thousand acne can oscillate between 15 and 70 g.

Cultivation –
The Cardo was already cultivated at the time of the Romans; Pliny, in his “Natural History”, puts it among the finest vegetables. It is very similar to artichoke but has a higher growth in height and leaves with petiole and thick ribs and fleshy that make up the product used in the diet.
This species prefers fertile, fresh and deep soils, medium-sized and without stagnant water, tendentially neutral; It also adapts to more or less sandy soils and also endures some salinity; The thermal requirements are similar to those of artichoke (it is a bit more sensitive to low temperatures: it stops growth at 0 ° C and can go dead if it falls below -2 ° C. Exposure must always be Sunny.
The soil must be prepared with good plowing and with abundant fertilizer based on manure and mineral, and then well prepared and laid out.
The plant, which is to be carried out in the spring, can be carried out with direct planting (in April-May at distances 1 meter apart and 80 cm between one plant and the other, or at distant holes 80 / 100 cm 3/4 seeds per hole – 2 / 2.5 kg per hectare – and after birth it will be reduced by leaving one plant); Or with seedling transplantation or in special containers (in May-June, when the plants reached the fiftieth or sixty leafs, with an investment density of 12,000 / 13,000 plants per hectare).
Subsequently, weeding (for weed control) and cover fertilization and irrigation should be performed if necessary.
Since the thistle is sold after being bleached, it is necessary to cover the plant from the base to about two-thirds of the height to protect it from the action of light. For this purpose, the leaves of the plant are tied together around the central axis and then it is possible to make the chamfering, applying to the plant a conical earthy cumulation; Or you can bend the plant in a pit dug next to it and then cover it with the ground, leaving the apical part unearthed; Or it wraps the plant with straw or cardboard or opaque plastic covers (placed in the machine in industrial crops). The duration of bleaching technique varies depending on the temperature (from 2 to 3 weeks).
As for harvesting (which takes place from September to the end of spring), the thistle is extirpated, deprived of roots and leaves and cut off at the end.
Gross yields average around 400 quintals per hectare; The harvested commercial product, after eliminating the outer leaves, the top of the lamina and the radical apparatus, is around 150-200 quintals. The product is normally freshly harvested freshly harvested.
Cardo is sensitive to some adversity and parasites. Among the fungal diseases we remember:
• Oidium or white mal (Leveillula taurica f. Sp. Cynarae Jaczewski);
• Peronospora (Bremia lactucae Regel.).
• Bacteriosis: bacterial marzipan (Erwinia carotovora var. Carotovora (Jones) Dye);
• Viroses: Anchoring.
Among the entomological attacks (Insects) we remember:
• Cassida (Cassida deflorata Suffr.);
• The Punteruolo (Larinus cynarae F.);
• The Altica (Sphaeroderma ribudum Graells);
• The Nottu (Hydroecia xanthenes Germ.);
• La Vanessa (Vanessa cardui L.);
• Gelechia (Depressaria erinacella Stgr.);
• The Aphid (Brachycaudus cardui L.);
• The thistle fly (Agromyza andalusiaca Strobl);
• Molluscs: Gray slices (Agriolimax agrestis L.).

For biological cultivation see the following sheet.

Uses and Traditions –
It is a widely known species throughout the Mediterranean basin for use in endocrine inflorescence (artichoke) and its pharmaceutical properties, as well as for the extraction of a coagulating agent milk for the preparation of cheeses Sheep (known in rural Tuscany with the dialectical name of “presure” and not to be confused with the sheep’s rennet). In recent times, interest in this species has increased as a source of therapeutic properties. These mainly result from the metabolism of phenylpropanoids and flavonoids, such as: chlorogenic acid, caffeoylchinic acids (see: cinnamon), caffeic acid and lutein. The main pharmacological action of cinnarin concerns its potential in limiting cholesterol biosynthesis and inhibiting HIV integrase.
Cinarine is a peculiar molecule of the Cynara cardunculus L. species and is currently marketed in the form of raw, non-standard foliar extracts.
Wild cardiots in popular culinary traditions can be considered another delicacy for palates that are delicate or not, to be kept in due consideration and indicated for the preparation of all-day dishes or those of holiday days.
Although their appearance may seem unattractive, it can be said that it is “herb of connoisseurs”, able to support particular palates because of the bitter taste that has no equal. If we all know the goodness of the artichoke that we find by its orthodoxy, which is cooked in all the thousands of known ways, it has its own “personality”, as can be appreciated by the dozens of wild cardiovascular species of Italian spontaneous flora.
With the terms cardo, stoppione, scardaccione, onopordo, white spine and in dialect “aprocchiu”, “caccabilisci”, “carduna”, “cacucciuliddi”, “cardugna”, etc. Are indicated the many names that identify the different species, each good for a particular culinary preparation.
Since all species require a special “disinfection”, an operation that only a few accept to do, despite the careful attention and attention of the carton, eventually a few plugs will have pierced the skin of the hands, but we must not discourage this and therefore Desist, thinking of the subsequent operations. Naturally, good gloves or better gloves are recommended for harvesting, and for picking wild artichokes you also need to have very sharp long knives, the latter also good for gathering the spiny leaves, in order to dodge the very thick spines. The hips in their vegetarian heterogeneity unfortunately have in common the thorns, but in return they are vegetables that you need to appreciate for what they are and represent for traditional folk cooking.
These plants belonging to the vast botanical family of Composites or Asteracees, including all kinds of daisies, hams and similar species, are seemingly insignificant herbs, which are attempted to dodge during a walk in the open air and instead are there, created by Mother Nature, for what they represent for science and what certain palates can appreciate.
It should be noted that it is only possible to make guesses on the origin of the common artichoke. The plant appears in Europe only in the Middle Ages and with names derived from the Arabic kharshuf (fr. Artichaut, sp. Alcachofa) and according to some Authors it is hypothesized the Eastern origin. But the imposing wild populations of C. cardunculus L. subsp. Cardunculus in the hills between Civitavecchia and the Tolfa Mountains, in the proximity of Etruscan settlements of Cerveteri, suggest that the common artichoke could have originated as a cultivated plant in this area, probably probably by the Etruscans. (Note from Pignatti, vol. III, p. 163).
The first traces of Cardo were found in Ethiopia and then in Egypt. Pliny, in his “Natural History”, puts it among the finest vegetables. Ever since ancient times, sprouts and thistle seeds served to produce rennet of cheeses, but only in the fifteenth century they have the first testimonies of its presence in the kitchen and its whitening techniques. Two doctors of the Savoy court, at the end of the sixteenth century. They wrote: “The hips are eaten ordinarily in the fall and in the winter, tender and white under the ground.” In the 1700’s, the renowned cookbook “Il Cuoco Piemontese” cites the most classic recipe based on cardi: the bagna cauda (or caoda), a plate symbol of the gastronomy of Piedmont. It appears perhaps recognizable for the first time on some silver coins issued in 1470 during the reign of James III and, since the early 16th century, was embedded in the Royal Coat of Arms of Scotland.
Together with tartan, the thistle is perhaps the symbol that most identifies the Scots and today it is seen to be used to distinguish Scottish as a series of products, services and organizations. A legend tells that a handful of Scottish warriors were about to be surprised by sleeping by a group of invading Vikings, and they were saved only because one of the enemies had a naked foot over a wild thistle. His screams gave the alarm, and the Scottish ones, awakened, defeated the Danish. In thanksgiving, the plant was called Guardian Thistle (Cardo Protector) and was adopted as a symbol of Scotland. There is no historical testimony that supports this legend, but whatever its origins, the thistle has been an important Scottish symbol for more than 500 years.

Methods of Preparation –
Meanwhile, as seen, there are several varieties of thistle: first of all, the horses are distinguished from those cultivated.
Among the wild horses, we mention the Cardo Mariano (also called Benedict or Our Lady), which grows spontaneously in many areas of southern Italy and the Isles.
Among the cultivars, we name the Monferrato Hunchback, which, being whitewashed, assumes a hook shape from which it is named.
Other cardiovascular varieties are Cardo di Bologna, characterized by the absence of thorns; The Cardo of Chieri, in Piedmont; The Cardo Gigante of Bologna; The Cardo Alato and the sad Cardo, characterized by purple flowers.
Immature berries are often used for culinary purposes like those of many varieties of horticulture, but since ancient times, the genus is known for its medicinal virtues. Leaves and rhizome contain important active ingredients (cinnamon, glucosides, tannins, inulin) that have hypoglycemic, aperitif, tonic, digestive and diuretic properties. From the flowers, as is said, a vegetable rennet, called “flower rennet”, is still used in some places for cheese production.
The hams are cooked in the oven or fried. The first cooking, very long, for 2 to 4 hours, is generally made in milk or water. It is best to take the next day with the cooking and allow the hams to cool down in the liquid. In Piedmont, they are accompanied by the famous Bagna cauda. In Sardinia is produced wild thistle liquor and wild thistle horns.
The preparation of the hips is very long, both for the time it takes to clean them and for the long cooking time. Some varieties are also consumed in crude, in pinzimonio. Among the most common recipes we find the cardinals and the fried cardi.
The cleaning of the hips is very laborious, as it is necessary to eliminate the harder outer shores, then to spit and cut them in pieces. The hams should be cooked immediately after being cleaned, to avoid blackening.
The hips are generally kept hanging: if you want to put them in the fridge, wrap the base with aluminum and place them in a food bag where you have drilled holes, putting them in the fruit and vegetable magazine, where you can keep it for a week.
If you do not want to cook immediately after having cleaned them, to avoid blackening, immediately immerse the hams in acidified water with lemon juice (exactly as it is used for artichokes). You can add lemon juice even in the water where you boil them, adding a tablespoon of flour.
Cynara cardunculus can be used in phytotherapy in extracts and herbal teas, the food thistle is known for its purifying virtues, particularly as a liver tonic due to the presence of a substance known as silibine that helps dispose of the toxins accumulated in the body .
It also has laxative properties, being very rich in fiber. It also contains antioxidant substances, which help keep the body young, mineral salts and vitamins.
The set also gives cardio also anticholesterolemic, digestive and fat burning properties.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. The Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, tips and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Please note: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgici uses are indicated for information purposes only, do not represent in any way a medical prescription; it accepts no liability on their use for therapeutic purposes, cosmetic or food.




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