Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Artichokes and Autumn winds...

Although the Summer harvest is over, there are still things to harvest in abundance in the garden during Autumn. The quinces and macadamia's are once again falling from their branches, choko's are hiding beneath their leafy rambling vines and the grape fruit are beginning to turn yellow, but one crop, that has been making itself heard about the house is the Jerusalem Artichoke!

The humble Jerusalem Artichoke means many things to many people. Some garrdeners rave about its massive yeilds, others warn of its ability to pop up year after year wihtout invitation, but one notorious reputation that seems to reoccur amongst all reports of this fine vegetable is that it causes terrible bouts of wind of inconceivable proportion!

Impressed by this tubers bad-boy reputation, Jo and I wondered if it really stood up to its name, or were these wafting accusations simply a lot of hot air? We decided to take this trumpeting tuber head on in a culinary test, and see if we'd be blown away, or vise versa.... sorry.

For those who are unfamiliar with this root vegetable, Jerusalem artichoke is related to the sunflower, not artichokes, and grows as a flowering bush, about 1.5m tall, bearing pretty yellow flowers over summer. The roots develop an impressive amount of bulbous tubers, which look similar to ginger. Plant in spring or summer and harvest the roots after the flowers drop (in Autumn) through to winter.

Jerusalem Artichoke flowers in Summer

This is the first year that we have grown Jerusalem Artichoke, and we have been impressed by its abundant harvest. From just one plant we dug up more than 5kg of tubers. In our harvesting excitement, we made the silly mistake of pulling up all the tubers at once, which, I suppose, is exactly what any first time Jerusalem Artichoke grower does, out of sheer curiosity. However, they do not store as well as potatoes, and need to be used within the week. Instead, what we should have done is left the tubers in the ground and dig them up as needed. Keeping them in the ground seems to be the best way to store jerusalem artichokes, keeping them fresh for months.

found one!

the harvest from a single plant

Consequently, we now have a lot of tubers to eat in this coming week, and will bravely feed them to our children and make careful observation from a safe distance for any evidence of these explosive accusations.

unsuspecting guinea pigs

Artichoke or fartichoke?

Night one, we peeled and shredded the tubors to make patties,, mixing in some egg, chives and a little flour, and fried them in the pan. served with some sour cream and sweet chilly sauce, the flavor had a  pleasant earthy taste. the kids ate what they were given, and no overt signs of bloating seemed to follow.

Night two, we became more daring, and had an old friend over for tea. We served artichoke again, this time sauteed in olive oil, garlic, bay leaves, sage and diced bacon. This recipe tasted significantly better, and.... no gastronomical blowouts... at least for Jo and I. Our guest, however, seemed a little squeemish... hmmm interesting.

Night three... We made a J. Artichoke soup, adding some tyme, diced bacon, potatoes, water and vegetable stock.... quite delicious.... and no signs of gas to be heard of. Much to our delight, it seems that we were spared of  the said affects of Jerusalem artichoke. I suspect it affects some and not others, which makes this vegetable quite an exciting one to try.... a little like russian roulette.

As far as our tummy's are concerned, it seems that th J. Artichoke has been unfairly stigmatised, and has nothing on falafels.  Be a dare devil, and try some J. Artichoke this season.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Goosberries...going, going, gone

Over April we have been harvesting our first season of Cape-gooseberries! the taste of a cape gooseberry is tangy with a real Zing of fresh fruity flavour. the fruit grows in thin paper like pods, like delicate little Chinese lanterns, on a vine, similar in growth to a tomato plant. the flesh is yellow both on the outside and in. Ours have been fruiting throughout march and April, and are said to keep fruiting until the first frost.They also grow particularly well in poor soil. If you can get your hands on some seeds or a plant, they are definitely worth while growing in the patch.

the fruit stores remarkably well, for several months when left inside the husk, but around here, they disappear off the vine in no time at all. Our kids keep a constant greedy vigil by the gooseberry vine. I overheard G, yesterday, despairing that she could find only one cape gooseberry to eat! As for mum and dad, we shall simply have to wait until our kids have left home before we can enjoy them without being ambushed by midget gooseberry connoisseurs.