18 September 2013

edible wild foods

Jerusalem Artichokes

     They can be eaten raw, steamed, roasted or fried, but these delicious little tubers are not artichokes and don't hail from Jerusalem.

     Growing wild in my yard, they are a hardy perennial and, once a bed is established they can grow up to seven feet [two metres] tall. Stalks with yellow daisy-like flowers top this delicious tuber vegetable plant.

     The plant originated in the Americas, and it's reported they were named artichokes because they have a taste similar to a globe artichoke, which belongs to the thistle family. Jerusalem artichokes belong to the sunflower family - which accounts for the first part of the name, a corruption of the Italian girasole (turning to the sun). They are healthful and easy to store come wintertime.

     They vary in size and can be cream, beige or yellow; some have a pink tinge. Easy to spot in the shops [though not always available], Jerusalem artichokes look similar to fresh ginger, but buy them now as they are at their crunchy best when the weather is cold.

Keep the tubers in a plastic bag or airtight container in the fridge as they will dehydrate when exposed to warm, dry conditions. Remove brown, stringy roots and scrub or peel before using. These tiny veggies discolour when cut, so they need to be placed in a bowl of cold water with a squeeze of lemon juice, or boil them with a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice added to the cooking water.

     Make a quick artichoke soup by sauteeing chopped onion and garlic, then adding peeled jerusalem artichokes and vegetable stock. When vegetables are tender, puree and serve with a splash of cream and chopped chives.

You can fancy it up by topping Jerusalem Artichoke soup with curried shrimp or prawns.

Here's another recipe ~ Jerusalem artichoke Casserole ~ Serves 4:
• Spray a 6-cup ovenproof dish with light olive oil. Peel Peel 1 pound [450g] jerusalem artichokes and slice very thinly. Peel 1 pound [450g] potatoes and slice very thinly. Finely slice half a peeled brown onion. Combine 1 cup [200g] light sour cream, 1/4 cup [100ml] skim milk, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, salt and cracked black pepper in a bowl.
• Spread 2 tbsp of sour cream mixture over the base of the ovenproof dish and layer about a fifth of the artichokes and potatoes over the sour cream and top with about 2 tbsp of the sour cream mixture. Continue to layer vegetables, salt and pepper and sour cream mixture, adding onion slices in between, to form five layers.
• Finish with a layer of sour cream mixture. Sprinkle with 150g grated gruyere cheese and bake at 390F [200C] for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until vegetables are tender and top is golden. Cover with foil if cheese begins to brown too quickly.

Flowering plants from Garrett Hoyt's Five Sprouts Farm weblog

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