A designer vegetable

In the early days of the Pittston Tomato Festival, mixed in with the professional chefs and restaurateurs you were likely to find a booth with your friends or neighbors serving something prepared from an old family recipe. That’s how I got to taste my first cardoon.
The cardoon is a “thistle-like plant in the same family as the artichoke.”
That’s in quotes because I just looked it up on the internet. When I was a kid growing up in Pittston all I knew of the cardoon was my friends of Italian descent ate them all the time and talked about them all the time. I, with my Irish and Italian roots, always felt I was missing something.
Then came the Tomato Festival.
My high school chums John Brogna and Ray Calabrese decided it was time to share with the rest of Pittston the secret of the cardoon. At a booth at the festival, they offered cardoons the way their moms made them: mixed with scrambled eggs on fresh Italian bread.
Man, oh, man. Those “sangwiches,” as John called them, were sensational.
The cardoon was much talked about in the days following the festival prompting Mike Augello, owner and chef at The Gramercy Restaurant on South Main Street, to quip that the cardoon was a “designer vegetable.”
“It’s true,” he’d say. “Pierre Cardoon.”
The thing about cardoons is that they grew wild all over town. People picked cardoons on the sides of roads, in fields, and often in their back yards where they never even planted them.
One time a fellow with Italian heritage stopped to chat with my Uncle Eddie who was mowing the lawn at his home in Hughestown. During the conversation, the fellow said to Uncle Eddie, “Hey, you got cardoons back there.”
He was pointing to the rear of the property.
“What?” Uncle Eddie said. “They’re the Deans. Lee and his wife have lived there for years.”
Clearly Uncle Eddie is not the designer vegetable type.

Ed Ackerman