Two years ago, Michel, a chef we were working with asked us to grow a crop called Crosnes. We had never heard of it and had never seen it in stores or seed catalogues. So, we looked around and found that there was a small local seed company (Mapple Farm in New Brunswick) that is one of the few places across Canada that sold tubers of Crosnes. They weren’t cheap at over a dollar per tiny tuber but we thought it would be interesting to try growing them. So we bought 12 tubers and planted them, first in pots and then transplanted out into the end of a bed.
The above-ground part of the plants looks like mint (though without a minty taste or smell). They grew well over the season and we dug them up and then replanted each tuber out individually. With the yield from those first plants, we didn’t have enough to sell (or eat), but just enough to plant out to have enough for the following season (this past season).
And…just this past week, we harvested them for the first time! It was not easy and took more time than we thought. Crosnes (also called Chinese artichokes) are really small and the yields per plant are not high. As we harvested them, we realized why they are such an uncommon crop (and why they’re so expensive when they are available).
But then we tasted them. First we ate some raw. And then we cooked a handful on the stove with butter and sea salt. And they were delicious and unlike any other vegetable. They are typically described as being similar to a water chestnut but the first thought that came to my mind was of a mung bean sprout. We were popping them in our mouths with pleasure (and a lot of respect…these little guys had taken us considerable effort to get to this point).
Chef Michel came to the market on Saturday and picked up 2 bags worth to take back to his restaurant Les Brumes du Coude in Moncton. Check it out soon if you want to try these rare little veggies for yourself!