Archiver > ITALY-ARBERESH > 2004-12 > 1102432378

From: "Kathy Brusha Chaffee" <>
Subject: RE: ITALY-ARBERESH-How About Wild Carduni
Date: Tue, 07 Dec 2004 10:12:58 -0500

The Wild Carduni

We have spoken about the domestic carduni which mainly grow in California
and are sold in various Italian specialty stores around the United States.
But, what about the wild carduni found in the wooded areas or up on a
hillside in various states of the USA?

In Wisconsin, come the week after Mother's Day, it was time to sharpen the
carduni knives and head off to the hillside just at the edge of the woods
for the tenderest carduni of the season. My grandfather would tell us to go
high up the hill beyond where "pipi del cane". ( That is, where the dogs did
pee.) Instructions were followed and we brought home enough carduni to
share with all the little elderly Italian ladies and some to blanch and
freeze for the Christmas holiday dinners.

These carduni were tender but bitter at the root end and not as wide as the
domestic variety. However, everyone really enjoyed the bitter root end just
as much as the rest. We cleaned and scrubbed them down; pulled the stringy
pieces; steamed them; and then when cooled dipped them in a beer batter and
fried them until golden brown. Sometimes an egg wash with seasoned bread
crumbs was used before frying. Although, my favorite way to eat them was
right out of the pot after steaming them.

As the years passed, I carried on this tradition with my Father, Uncles and
later my cousin. One day, with the first signs of Spring in the air, my
Uncle presented me with two very special carduni knives he had made himself.
Picture this: the blades were long and wide coming to a point, and sharp
on both sides with the steel running through the large wooden handle . . .
pirate's knives for sure. The reasoning behind the design was so one could
push the blade in the ground at the root; circle around the plant and back
with one flick of the wrist; snap the roots; and pull out the plant from the
ground. Then, wack off the leaves from the plant for a perfect stalk of
carduni. These knives looked wicked and were always sharp and ready for
that patch of carduni to appear. They were wrapped securely in their
individual newspaper taped holders. And, come spring they assumed their
spot on top of the spare tire under the cover of the trunk, only to be
removed when the leaves began to fall.

One year, after a tremendous carduni picking season, I forgot to remove the
knives. Now it is February, in the midst of a 2 AM snow storm, and I am on
a highway in Chicago returning from the airport after a long delayed flight,
and I hit a pothole blowing out the two front tires on my car. All I
could think of was "Oh my God, it couldn't be a darker spot on the road for
this to happen!" A bit scared I was for sure and praying that a semi driver
would come to my aid. But "NO", a stationwagon stops and a man comes to
help me. He asked if I had a spare and proceeded to jack the car up with
his jack and take off the wheels. He even was going to go to the gas
station at the next exit and get my second tire fixed or replaced for me.
Well . . . when we open the trunk, and lift up the floor cover, I see the
two carduni knives. "Oh Dear God, I don't know this man from adam and I
have two knives here", were my thoughts. I grabbed for the knives, and for
sure they come out of the 20 year old newspaper holders. I said to this
man, "these are my carduni knives" . . .rather yelled it to him, because he
was running down the highway to his car. And, I'm telling this poor soul,
"don't leave me here"! I quickly put the knives under my seat in the car.

Within minutes, the highway emergency repair truck appeared, and again I was
offered on the spot service. They changed the tire and repaired the other
one and put it back on for me. Then offered me an escort to the toll booth
where I was instructed to stop and wait for further instructions. At the
toll booth he came up to the car again and said the Illinois highway patrol
would escort me to the Wisconsin state line; then the Wisconsin State patrol
to the county line; then the sheriff patrol to the city line; and then the
city police to my home. The next words were, "where are the carduni
knives"? You see, the escort was not because of the tires, it was due to
the carduni knives! He laughed and said that poor man could hardly speak
but he was sure to mention the "carduni knives" and get my license plate
number. The sheriff's department checked me out and I was lucky enough to
have a relative on the department who knew what "carduni" was, and of course

Well, the carduni knives went in retirement, up on the rafters in the
basement, and my dear father went to the wooded area a few weeks before
Mother's day and dug up many small carduni only to plant them in my flower
garden . . . the joy of the hunt was now right outside my window. Never
again did flowers grow there because the carduni spread every year.

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