Every year we try growing veg that we’ve not tried before, particularly if they’re hard to find in the shops, and the first of this year’s experimental offerings has just been welcomed to the plot. The Chinese artichoke, like many vegetable oddities, has lots of alternative names* but ‘Chinese artichoke’ would appear to be the most popular, despite it being nothing like an artichoke.
It’s actually related to the mint family and is grown like a potato – planted three inches deep, between late autumn and early spring, and earthed up as it grows. It’s a low, bushy plant, and its rooty bits are harvested in autumn when the leaves die back. Hopefully we’ll be rewarded with a fair helping of grub-like spiral tubers, which are said to have a slightly nutty flavour. The more delicately flavoured stems are also edible.
Apparently they’re easier to clean than they look (peeling not required) and can be eaten raw or cooked, most commonly in stir fries. They can also be pickled, which is always plus point for any new veg wanting to find a home with us.
*These alternative names include crosnes, chorogi, knotroot, Archimedes bone root and artichoke betony