Learn All About Crosnes

Learn how to grow and cook with crosnes, a tiny, twisted tuber also known as Chinese artichokes or chorogi.


| February/March 2004



202-076-01

Crosnes (Stachys affinis), also known as Chinese artichokes or chorogi, are a gourmet sensation at upscale restaurants and green grocers, and they're not to be missed by adventurous eaters and market gardeners alike


Photo by Matthew Stallbaumer

All About Crosnes

They're about the size of a chess piece, and they look like micro-mini Michelin men. Their French name, crosnes, is pronounced "crones," which brings an image of gnarly, old women to mind. Why should you care? Crosnes (Stachys affinis), also known as Chinese artichokes or chorogi, are a gourmet sensation at upscale restaurants and green grocers, and they're not to be missed by adventurous eaters and market gardeners alike. The crisp, juicy little tubers bring up to $40 a pound, retail, and enhance any salad, stir-fry or sauté. Market potential abounds, as food magazines and television cooking shows tout the tuber's tasty trendiness. Plus, the little delights are easy to grow and fun to eat.

A perennial root vegetable and member of the mint family, crosnes can be planted in a flower bed, around a landscape shrub or as a field crop. Plants form a mat of attractive, spearmint-like leaves during the summer. When the foliage turns brown in autumn, the tiny tubers are harvested in the same manner as potatoes.

Cooking is optional with crosnes, as they are crunchy and full of juice right out of the ground. Wipe them clean or briefly soak them in water to remove any dirt. They are too tiny to peel, and much of their flavor is in the skin anyway.

Eat crosnes raw as a snack. Throw them in a salad for a radishlike crunch. Or pickle them for a real conversation piece. They shine in stir-fried dishes as a crispy alternative to water chestnuts. A piece of fish with crosnes and asparagus tips sauteed in garlic and olive oil makes for a fast, attractive gourmet entree, or serve them like the French — steamed and dressed with butter sauce.

Odessa Piper, chef-owner of an upscale Madison, Wisconsin, restaurant called L'Etoile, first sampled crosnes more than five years ago in Paris. "All the knots and ridges catch and hold sauces perfectly," she says. To put them on the menu of her own eatery, she turned to organic growers Richard de Wilde and Linda Halley, owners of Harmony Valley Farm in Viroqua, Wisconsin. De Wilde and Halley already were selling organic produce to Piper, who is a member of the Chefs Collaborative, a group that promotes local chef/organic grower relationships, so the market gardeners soon were turning out crosnes, too. The couple also sells organic produce to other area restaurants, at the Dane County, Wisconsin, Farmer's Market and through the Harmony Valley Farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) produce subscription program.

Culture

"You can plant the tubers in fall or early spring, in full sun and in any soil that drains reasonably well," says de Wilde. Once planted, the tubers need a steady supply of moisture until harvest to make a crop. "It is easy to detect when they start to produce," he says. "The plants grow very shallowly, so you can see the ground crack and heave when the tubers start to swell." Two to three weeks later, they're ready to eat, cook — or pickle, as Halley often does.

durgan
10/20/2008 5:22:54 PM

http://www.durgan.org/ShortURL/?EPWHC 20 October 2008 First Crosne Harvest. I grew 32 square feet of Crosne this year (2008. The first sample few were dug today, and they are perfect. The main digging will take place in about two weeks. http://www.durgan.org/ShortURL/?EPWHC Summary: Crosne growing experience. http://www.durgan.org/ShortURL/?VEGVW Garden Journal






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