Another new and unusual item coming soon from Church Farm are Chinese artichokes, also know as crosne (pronounced crone). This little known vegetable comes from a perennial herb grown in our kitchen garden. On the top, the leaves and flowers look very much like mint, but these have no particular aroma or flavour. Under the soil, though, hides the treasure of curious curly white tubers. These have a delicious flavour, despite their odd appearance; slightly nutty with a crisp texture. They can be eaten raw on their own, or in a salad, otherwise they may be cooked briefly by steaming, boiling, frying or roasting. It is better to prepare them by scrubbing them clean rather than trying to peel them, as this will prove to be a rather fiddly task.
The new planting of strawberries in the kitchen garden got off to a great start this year, yielding loads of exceptionally large fruits, and also sending out lots of runners. This is how the strawberry plant propagates itself naturally. The runners have so called “adventitious” roots at each node which will grow if they make contact with soil, and thus develop into a new plant. This year’s plantation was made through a tough woven mulching fabric. The purpose was to control weeds of course, but also to ensure that the runners don’t establish in the soil around their parent plants. If allowed to do so, the planting would rapidly develop into an untidy sprawl, impossible to harvest from without treading on fruit. Instead, we have taken some of the runners to create new plants at the propagation tunnel. The rooting part of the runner is separated with a short piece of stem still attached. This stump is used as an anchor to hold the nascent plant upright in a pot of compost. Large leaves are removed and smaller ones reduced to force the young plant to concentrate its energies on rooting.
So far a good majority of these runners have taken successfully, and these will ultimately be planted in the kitchen garden to increase the quantity of fresh fruit we can provide, or alternatively the plants may be offered for sale to our customers at the farm store.