Chinese Artichokes

Knot Root, Crosne, Chorogi

Stachys affinis syn. S. leboldii, S. tubifera F. Lamiaceae

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Deciduous, low-growing bush, 30-50cm high, that can sprawl 30-50cm across, with square, soft stems; opposite-forming, ovate, bright-green leaves, to 10cm, with scalloped margins and many prominent veins. Leaf is similar in appearance to lemon balm, which is not surprising considering it belongs in the same family. Leaves have no aroma. The Lamiaceae family includes the majority of traditional, culinary herbs like basil, mint, thyme, savory, oregano, rosemary and sage. All these culinary herbs have small lip-flowers. As the plant grows, tubers start to fill out. From the end of summer to autumn many tubers can develop. These have a fascinating appearance, like pearly, spiral seashells, 4-6cm long, sometimes referred to as spirals. When the cold days of winter arrive, this plant dies off, right to the ground.

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Chinese Artichokes
Chinese Artichokes

Culinary Uses

Chinese artichokes do not need to be peeled. They are an attractive, gourmet vegetable with a crisp, crunchy texture and a sweet, nutty flavour. Because of the novel appearance of the tubers, it is best to use them whole, rather than chopped up. Eat raw in hand, add to salads or any cooked dish: stir-fries, casseroles, soups, sweet and sour, seafoods and curries. Tubers can also be pickled or dried, for later use. Prepare the tubers in tempura, or fry in a batter.

Very little cooking is required; in fact they are valued for their crisp texture. Only a few Chinese artichokes are required per meal to give flavour and appearance, and they make a great conversation piece. Artichokes can be steamed for 5 minutes then tossed with butter and herbs like chervil, parsley, savoury, chives and coriander. Or serve steamed artichokes with a sauce, dressing or lemon juice. Try artichokes with dips: avocado, kefir or cheese. Mix artichokes with noodles, egg, mushrooms, or tofu. They look great with a mixture of steamed vegetables like carrots, peas, zucchini and onions. In Japan, the tubers are pickled in salts, and purple perilla leaves are added for flavour and colour. Chinese artichokes are valued as a food in the Chinese Five Systems, for feeding and strengthening the respiratory and lymphatic system.

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