Vegetable rennet

Cardoon flowers.
Image credit: theoelliot @ Flickr

I’m feeling cheesy. A night of watching food television will do that to a girl. I’ve just watched three hours of cheese programmes as it so happens that watching people make cheese on TV is an incredibly calming experience.

At the same time I was flicking through my Harold McGee On Food and Cooking as I find I do a lot while watching food television and discovered this interesting information.

In Portugal and Spain flowers of cardoon (Cynara cardunculus and C. humilis) are collected and dried in summer and then soaked in warm water in winter to make sheep and goat cheeses. Cardoon rennet is unsuitable for cows milk, as it curdles and turns bitter.

Cardoon is a vegetable (the leaf stems and artichoke can be eaten), and a spectacular edition to your garden with tall, silvery foliage.  I grew it years ago and hadn’t replaced it after frost-strike. But this has got me wanting another specimen. I shall add it to my list of wanting to procures for the season. That list is getting rather gangly.