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Sunday, 16 October 2011

Of Roots

It's Blog Action Day once again.  Some of you may remember I participated last year talking about water.  This year's theme is food.  Now I racked my brain long and hard what to write about, because essentially this is what this blog is all about, food.  I write about it all the time, about growing it, foraging for it, preparing it, sometimes even eating it.  So how do I get a new angle on it.

Well two current news got me on roots, both literally and figuratively.  Unfortunately I appear to have mislaid my camera, so the images today have been nicked, apologies to anyone claiming copyright to these pics...

As one of the new things I have experimented with this year in the garden is a root vegetable known by it's Italian name of scorzanera.  I don't normally do well with root crops so I set aside a deep pot filled with quite a rich turf in it and sowed a few plants.  I didn't know what the end result would look or taste like.  Well as for looks (I did have a photo on my disappeared camera...):

This is it.  They are very slow growing.  I sowed them back in April I think and only just now harvested them.  
Once peeled I seemed to remember my Mum trying to feed me these things unsuccesfully.  However that doesn't mean much, because I was the world's fussiest eater as a kid.  (Incidentally this just shows you it's all in the mind, because as I grew up I became the world's unfussiest eater.)  Anyway, I seemed to remember my Mum cooking them in a creamy sauce, so that's what I  did, and I as I didn't have a huge amount I threw a handful of chicory leaves in with it and served the lot over some cooked potatoes.  Very nice and I shall try growing some more next year.

The other root story is quite an embarrassing one, I know you will laugh out loud about this Mr. H
My blogger friend Mr. H in Idaho has often mentioned growing Jerusalem artichokes on his land, or as he prefers to call them, sun roots.  He's asked me if I had ever tried growing them, as they are a very easy to grow root crop.  I told him, that I had never seen the tubers to start the plants of with for sale in Italy and didn't think they were known to Italians.

Now currently we have a helpXer staying with us, who incidentally is not exactly from Jerusalem, but from Israel.  As we went on a walk with the dog the day before yesterday, showing her some of the wild foods growing around here, she pointed at these tall yellow flowers asking me whether they were sunflowers or Jerusalem artichokes:

I said I was sure they weren't sunflowers, and I didn't think they were Jerusalem artichokes as they grew wild everywhere including on a wilder corner of our land.  She said it did look like the latter though, and if we did have some on our land, we should dig for the roots and have a look.  And lo and behold... this is what we dug up:

I peeled a bit there and then and tasted it... Hmmm!  Really juicy and tasty even raw.  So here we go, Mr.H, no need to send me any tubers I just cultivate some of the wild stuff that grows abundantly all over the place!  I now understand too why you call them sunroots.  I don't think you have ever shown us a picture of the pretty flowers.

A quick word about food in general and roots in the figurative sense.  We should all go back to our cultural roots eating in season and re-learning to find and use the wild foods that nature gives us so abundantly for free both for the good of our planet and for our own health.  Now wasn't that all beautifully summed up and brought to a conclusion, (if I say so myself... ;)).

PS: I now found my camera and replaced the above images with my own,,,


Tanya @ Lovely Greens said...

Best to leave them out growing in the 'wild' Heiko...they're a terror to get out of the garden! I planted four tubers in spring 2010 and thought I'd had them all out by last November. This year I watched in amazement as about TWENTY new plants bolted up. I absolutely love their flavour but there's a reason they're called 'Fart-ichokes' ;)

Mr. H. said...

How very exciting to have found sun roots growing in the wild, they are native to the U.S.A. but of course I have never seen any in the wild before. Those are nice looking tubers. We normally do not have a long enough growing season for them to set flower, but due to our extended frost free fall we have numerous flower heads this year...which is neat to see.

Scorzonera is also one of our favorite perennial vegetables and we often use them for both the roots and the fresh young leaves. If you let them over winter they will send up lovely yellow flowers that smell like chocolate...really they do. The way you cooked them sounds quite delicious and I will have to try that.

I enjoyed this blog action day post and could not agree more with your ending thoughts. Enjoy those roots.:)

Heiko said...

Tanya, they already grow in my garden, so too late for that advice. So why do they call them farti chokes... Do they smell bad?

Mr.H. that photo of the tubers was nicked as well, as I still haven't found my camera. They did look a little like this though, just maybe smaller. Must leave some scorzanera for an extra year next time, sounds great to have flowers smelling of chocolate... :)

becky3086 said...

I grew Jerusalem artichokes and they grew well but they tasted awful.

Heiko said...

Becky, our helpXer went out yesterday and gathered a whole lot and we ate them for dinner, boiled with some butter and salt and pepper and I thought they were delicious! They do seem to make you fart lots though...

MikeH said...

A bit of olive oil, a roasting pan and you have a wonderful treat. Because you don't peel them first, there's no work involved. Roasting hardens the skin a bit and turns the insides to the texture of roasted garlic. You simply nip off the end and squeeze out the treat inside. Absolutely wonderful.

We are choke-less right now because we had to dig them all up and relocate them because they were quickly taking over where they were planted. By the time we got to the pails where we had temporarily lodged them, the summer drought had done them in.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

hey Heiko! look over there - there's the sun chokes! ha ha ha ha!

great find! and i'm totally jealous. i've been wanting some as well. now if i can only get to Italy...

Heiko said...

Mike, we boiled them and ate them skin and all. I did quite like them raw as well though, possibly even more, but then rather without the skin.

OFG, it's not my fault they never show you any pictures of what the plant looks like ABOVE the ground! I always kind of assumed they looked a little like potatoes...

Michelle said...

It's kind of funny (ironic) when you think about it. You thought you didn't have any and here they were all over the place and you got them for free.
I have been wanting to grow some too. Sadly they don't look like anything growing wild around us :-(
Guess we'll have to buy some or find someone that wants to share.

Tanya @ Lovely Greens said...

They give a good percentage of the population REALLY windy gas ;)