Saturday, August 27, 2011

Chinese Artichoke (Crones)

The Chines Artichoke or Crone has been cultivated in Asia for over a thousand years, and was introduced in the US about 100 years ago. Crones belong to the mint family and look and bloom just like mint.  

Under ground, crones resemble molten pearls and the tubers are arranged in the same pattern as potatoes.

Because the plant spread like mint, you only need to plant it one time and it will come back every year. Crones are a hardy plant, do not attract insect like other vegetables, and are relatively low maintenance. The tubers form in the last month of their life cycle which is typically before first frost, so fertilization is needed prior to that.
If you plan to grow crones, make a ground level bed with good draining soil and plant your tubers 1-2 inches apart when the soil is no longer frozen. As soon as the temperature stabilizes at 600 Fahrenheit, the shoots will come up.  Let them grow. Starting in September, start using organic fertilizer on them. After the tops are killed by the first frost, the tubers are ready for harvesting. The depth of the crone roots should not exceed 5 inches, so you wont need a hoe to dig them out. You can leave some in the ground for next year. What I recommend is to dig everything up, pick out the tubers you want to use as seeds, and replant them 2 inches deep in an even arrangement. Finally, cover the soil with some wood ash. No other protection is needed.
Today, very few people grow them commercially because machine harvesting is almost impossible.
The tubers are crisp, juicy and very delicious.  You can pickle them, make a salad with them, or make a stir fry with them.

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