Organic agriculture and biodiversity have in recent years brought about a rediscovery of many “forgotten” vegetables that people especially in Europe and France conscientiously tried to forget as they reminded them of the privations suffered during WWII. The same people had then to make do with untraditional vegetables because potatoes, carrots and so on were confiscated by occupying forces or their own armies.
With sustainibility and bioagriculture made more important by the deficiencies of modern mass agriculture, those “forgotten” vegetables have suddenly come to the fore for the pleasure of all, and that of course of vegetarians and vegans!
This particular series of postings will introduce these vegetables one by one. I hope they will become useful for a long time to come to all my vegan and vegetarian friends!
1) Scorsonere/Oyster Plant
Crosne (Stachys affinis), otherwise known as the Chinese artichoke, knotroot, or artichoke betony, is an herbaceous perennial plant of the family Lamiaceae. Although its edible tuber can be grown as a root vegetable, it is a rare sight in the garden. From a cultivation standpoint this is rather odd — the plant is easy to grow, requiring neither staking nor earthing-up. The reason that it is so unpopular is the nature of the tubers — small, convoluted and indented, so that it is the cook rather than the gardener or the family who finds this vegetable frustrating. The thin skin is of whitish-brown or ivory-white. The flesh underneath, under proper cultivation, is white and tender. It is in season generally commencing with October.
The flavor of the tubers is delicate and delicious — they can be treated as topinambour/jerusalem artichokes in cooking. It is used as a vegetable, in salad compositions, but more so as a garnish.
In China, the Chinese artichoke is used primarily for pickling.
Its tuber is a part of Osechi cooked for celebrating Japanese New Year. Dyed red by leaves of red shiso after pickled, it is called Chorogi. In French cuisine, its cooked tuber is often served alongside dishes named japonaise or Japanese-styled.
It was introduced in France in 1882 by a retired French industry businessman called Auguste Pailleux, who had a passion for gardening and unusual plants which could be used for food.
Crosne was adopted as the name of his birthplace in 1960!
He planted them in his garden in the Essone near Paris and has his neighbours taste them. Their taste halfway between salsify and artichoke became an instant success!
The very following year they could be bought at the local food stands/markets!
But They soon fell out of favour, being too difficult to peel.
It has regained popularity since then and is mainly cultivated in France in Val de Loire, around Paris, in Bretagne, Bourgogne and Somme (northern France).
Roasted Mushrooms and Crosnes Salad
They are presently sold over the counter pre-washed.
Blanchir/fry them over a hot fire for 2 minutes first. Then you can decline them into all kinds of dishes including cream, soup, mashed, fritters, etc.
Fried crosnes with cumin