How to grow Crosnes: The chinese artichoke pearls in your vegetable garden

What a funny little vegetable. An improbable cross between the Michelin man and a chafer larva, the crosne is in fact, like the potato, the underground reserve organ of a plant. And it’s a delight to taste.

In the 19th century, a certain Auguste Pailleux made his garden in Essonne a space for acclimatization and testing of useful exotic vegetables. This is how he welcomed into his vast vegetable garden Stachys affinis, a small elongated white tuber in the shape of a rosary, resembling a rhizome of wheatgrass in addition to fleshy. Auguste Pailleux cultivated three tonnes which then had to be disposed of.

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As inventive as Parmentier was to popularize the potato, he renamed Stachys affinis “crosne”, from the name of his town of residence (17 km south-east of Paris). With the current trend being Japanese, he added “from Japan” for an exciting exotic note. It was a phenomenal success, until the Great War when crosne acquired a reputation as a “famine” vegetable just like swede.

However, for its texture of spleen with the flavor of hazelnut and artichoke that satisfies the most demanding taste buds, it is to be rediscovered! Its foliage resembles that of a mint. It has the invasive side of it: the slightest tuber grows back.

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How to Grow Chinese Artichokes

  • Think of it as a perennial, just like Jerusalem artichoke, and prepare the soil accordingly.
  • Spade, scratch, then add a bucket of compost per m².
  • Prepare furrows one inch deep, 40 cm apart, and position a tuber every 10 cm.
  • Fill the furrow with fine earth, then tamp down with the back of the rake.
  • Straw and water in fine rain. The mulch adheres better to the soil as well, and the fine soil clumps to the tubers, promoting their rooting.
  • If your mulch is very thick, spread it slightly on the planting row.

A ridging is recommended in June, without being essential, but this gesture increases the yield. The crosne appreciates mild and humid climates especially in summer, but not excessively.

When to Harvest Chinese Artichoke

Chinese artichoke plants take about 5-7 months to develop tubers. They are ready to harvest anytime during the fall and winter when the plant is dormant.
The top growth may be killed back by frost, but the tubers themselves are quite hardy and can be left underground for later harvest. Lift the tubers as you would potatoes. It is almost impossible to find all the tubers but any left behind will grow the successive season.
Chinese artichoke growing is extremely simple and, because the plant is a perennial, will provide the gardener with years of delicious tubers. Although it can be invasive, at the time of harvest, the plant’s size can be retarded by simply pulling it up.

In the South, mulching is essential, and planting in the shade of a deciduous tree (summer shade, autumn light) is strongly recommended to keep the soil cool even in summer. Crosne is harvested during the winter as needed.

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As you can see, its culture is simple. It is his treatment in the kitchen that is sometimes tedious. It does not peel and its misshapen rosaries make cleaning difficult:

Wash your harvest of the day. Brush them and rinse a second time, possibly a third time, if your soil is clayey. Dry then roll in coarse salt to finish cleaning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images via: Canva

 

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