As I’ve mentioned before, going to the Pasadena farmers’ market is one of my favorite Saturday morning diversions, but I’ll admit that it’s not as exotic as many of the other farmers’ markets around. I rarely see a fruit or vegetable that I haven’t at least heard of. But when crosnes started showing up at the market several months ago, they threw me for a loop. What stopped me from trying them for so long? It wasn’t their minor resemblance to maggots (a terrible image, I know, but weren’t you thinking that anyway?), but rather their exorbitant price tag. At $16 a pound, crosnes are a pricey little tuber. But with my best friend Amanda in town for the weekend, we decided to live it up and try them. (This was our one concession to spontaneity in our otherwise meticulously planned weekend and we patted ourselves on the back heartily for it.)
To our surprise, crosnes are actually a member of the mint family, even though they most taste like a potato. Originally from Northern China (where they are named chorogi for “longevity” and are thought to be good luck), in the late 1800s, they were imported to the French village of Crosnes, for which they are now named. (Incidentally, crosnes are notably absent from both of my main food reference books, On Food and Cooking and Larousse Gastronomique, but luckily I stumbled across this fun site which had plenty of information on them.)
Taking a cue from my friend Jill, we plunked our little crosnes into a pan with a pat of butter, some salt and pepper, and a little bit of Penzey’s Sunny Spain spice mix. After about 25 minutes of sauteing, the delicious smell of warm butter filling the house, our crosnes had softened and were ready to eat. As we’d heard, they were much like potatoes, only a bit crunchier. Certainly they were tasty enough, but their real appeal is their utter novelty. I wouldn’t recommend their daily consumption (unless you have a deep trust fund), but they’re a guaranteed conversation piece and will be new to all but the most seasoned gourmands.