The Chinese call this sweet, crispy, pearly white tuber “kam-lu”, meaning gentle dew.
A Beijing doctor once offered some to Auguste Pailleux, a member of France’s Société Nationale d’Acclimatation, who then bought it home and tried to grow his own stachys affinis.
His journal entry for 4 January 1878 reads as follows: “I rented some plots of land around my garden and planted some stachys tubers; enough to ensure me a harvest of approximately 3,000 kilograms. However, as I believe that the majority of chefs will be unable to pronounce the name stachys affinis, I have renamed the tubers crosnes, after by home village.”
These Chinese artichokes, named crosnes in France, were an instant, but short-lived success, falling out of favour a mere 50 years later.
However, they are once again present at a few winter markets, ready to attract discerning taste buds.