This is a cardoon.
It’s a naturally occurring cousin of the globe artichoke hailing from the South Mediterranean. I feel sure it must be delicious, in that Pavlovian way we trust artichokes to be delicious despite (because of?) their tonsil-lacerating appearance. Apparently it’s not all that much like an artichoke, though. I’m told you don’t eat that spiky part. Or the leaves, or the root. You eat the stem. And it’s less of an acquired taste than a pain in the um, neck. I’m told. And so with the true spirit of a naysayer I’ve staked out a large prickly bunch for myself that will surely yield something delicious (and post the results).
Wish me luck!