This hard-to-find, visually-unappealing, finicky vegetable is worth the hunt and the longish preparation.
I had searched for cardoons for years every late fall/early winter, with no success. Albie's Produce in the North End and even Eataly in Boston's Back Bay had failed me.
Then a double-stroke of good luck brought me success! The produce manager at my local Stop & Shop acidentally got a shipment of cardoons from California, and I happened to be at the store on that morning.
I sort-of recognized this long-sought vegetable, but I wasn't sure. Fortunately they were labelled Cardones, the Italian name for the vegetable, so it was easy to connect the name.
The raw vegetable is very bitter, but 30 minutes of boiling extracts most of the bitterness, leaving only a bracing aftertaste that complements a rich buttery or cheesy sauce.