Monday, May 05, 2008

Helianthus tuberosus

Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes) rock my world. Fast growing, prolific, pretty in flower, good to eat with a sweet, nutty flavour. What more could you ask of a tuber? Aside from the fact that friends and family have dubbed them jerusalem fartichokes, I'm impressed.

Advice was to snip flower buds off before they bloomed, and I tried, but they'd grown so high that it was hard. Because I didn't get to carry this out, I thought I'd have a poor yield. Boy was I wrong. In late April, I pulled out three plants and harvested at least 4 kilos.

Turns out I had two varietes, a knobbly one that looked like ginger, and another longer variety that I think is called 'Fuseau'. Both make tasty soup. You can make the soup with the artichoke as the main ingredient, or you can include potatoes or/and leeks. The soup has a lovely velvety texture, whether you make it with straight chicken stock or add milk. Apparently Helianthus tuberosus are good roasted too, like a parsnip, with other veggies. They freeze well (like ginger). I might try this Jerusalem artichoke and green pea tart with some defrosted ones.


With the bumper tomatoe crop from the peninsula patch, my partner made relish, from a recipe in Stephanie Alexander's, Cook's Companion. Five kilos were turned into 5 jars, which didn't seem like much reward for a lot of effort, but there's a lot of taste packed into those small vessels. A friend vowed to eat her relish every day for a week, and took photos to prove it. Relish with pizza was one of the more unusual combinations.

We're enjoying all the herbs from the garden at the moment. From left to right below are sage, mint and oregano, chilli (I know, not a herb, but good colour contrast), perennial basil, thyme and rosemary. Watercress is also thriving in a sunny spot on the balcony, and we are getting some lovely pepperminty feathery chervil to go with our fish.

Birds begone

My partner has built walls for the patches, so they're now a series of (slightly raised) beds. Wood was gleaned from a neighbour who had just pulled out all his skirting boards. Combined with my not-so-well constructed nets, plantings are pretty much birdproof. Now what do we do about our jack russell who has developed a taste for obsessive rat hunting in the garden . . . .?

Seedlings: broccoli, beetroot, cos lettuce, sweet pea (massey gem)
Seeds: direct seeding of mustard, parsley, dill, rocket, poppy seeds
Also planted some Russian garlic, and early purple garlic for harvest in December.

On my balcony in the sun, I have seedlings of coriander, cauliflower (mini), and broad beans (coles dwarf)

Harvest news
Other than the jerusalem artichokes, I've had a late harvest of french beans, probably brought on by the heat spell in March. Made a polpete pie with them, which is really just a fancy label for bean and potatoe mash with parmesan, cooked in the oven in a pie dish for about 40 mins until a cheesy crust forms.

Spinach and chard are also staples at the moment.

A few small strawberries came out of the hanging pots, pretty disappointing really.

Eggplants were few and far between - planted too late I think.

A stint of earthworks education at Goulburn will be the subject of the next post. Swales, dams, tractors, keyline ploughs, surveying equipment. Most entertaining.

Marie Antoinette