Jerusalem Artichokes are related to sunflowers so will grow tall and eventually have small yellow flowers. The sprouts are brittle so take care not to break the growing tip when planting them. Its best to harvest them all in the autumn or over winter, and then replant each year – otherwise they get very congested.
They are delicious roasted, and I like them as soup. Here is a simple recipe:
Peel the artichokes using a vegetable peeler or a teaspoon, this is not absolutely necessary but makes a better coloured soup.
Fry gently with a couple of cloves of garlic in some oil or butter. Don’t let it burn.
After a few minutes, add enough water to cover and cook with a lid on for about 20 minutes until the artichokes are soft.
Add a handful of parsley and liquidise to a smooth texture. I usually add milk to this, I’m going to try oat milk next time.
JAs contain inulin, a starch which encourages healthy gut bacteria but they can make you pretty windy, you have been warned!!
Elderflower cordial made in June gives you the fragrance of summer all year round.
Our allotment site has lots of elder bushes growing around the edges which are covered with fragrant flower heads in June. There are lots of ways of using them, and elderflower cordial is our current favorite – the taste of summer all year round. We make a batch in June, and keep a few plastic bottles of it in the freezer. You can just dilute it with water for a refreshing drink, or use it more adventurously (elderflower sorbet?). My wife has used this cordial recipe for years, but now we can’t find the original on the internet any more. No matter, here is our version of it:
Pick the elderflowers on a dry morning, and try to use them within a few hours. Sniff them to find the best. Give each one a little shake to evict any insect visitors.
25 elderflower heads
1.5 litres of water
50g citric acid (from Wilko’s for example)
2 unwaxed lemons, finely sliced
Boil the sugar and water to make a syrup, stirring until it is all dissolved. Turn off the heat and stir in the citric acid, then leave it to cool. Put the flower heads in a container and pour the syrup over them and add the sliced lemons.
Cover it and leave it for two days, stirring occasionally. Then strain it through a jelly bag or muslin. You can squeeze the lemons to get a bit more zing if you like.
You can freeze it in clean plastic bottles, or use it fresh from the fridge for a few weeks.
Spring is the time for kale sprouts – the best part of the plant.
Through March and April, kale which has survived the winter starts to put out flowering shoots, a bit like sprouting broccoli. Kale sprouts are delicious – the best part of the plant. They are much better than the tough older leaves that are served in trendy cafes along with quinoa and chia as “superfoods”.
I gather the sprouts when they are still growing fast, and tender enough to break off the stem easily. I wash them in a bit of fresh water, then drop them, still damp, into a pan with a bit of olive oil. Kale tastes best to me if I start it on a fairly high heat, tossing them in the oil. After a minute or two I turn the heat down and add just enough water to steam them without burning, but not so much that they become soggy. (Well, I do get this wrong sometimes, but then they are just ‘pan browned’ – definitely not ‘burned’.) When they are tender and they smell done serve them up.
Cook lots, or you will wish you had.
I cook broccoli the same way. Sometimes I add a clove of chopped garlic to the oil, especially with supermarket broccoli, which isn’t as tasty on its own.
I like the taste, of course, but I really love the leisurely ritual of eating them…
Globe artichokes have always been one of my favorite treats. I like the taste, of course, but I really love the leisurely ritual of eating them, nibbling the flesh off the base of each leaf, with lots of gaps for conversation in between (if you are not too greedy!).
In our part of the world they are ready to pick through June and July, when they have swollen to their full size, but before they get too thistle-ish. The internet has lots of fancy artichoke recipes, and even tutorials on eating them, but I like the simple way: cover them in water and boil them. You can tell when they are ready by poking a fork into the stem. Then see if one of the lower leaves pulls of easily. Cooking might take 15 minutes for younger ones, or longer when they are older.
No need to trim the tips off the leaves unless they are prickly.
Drain them well and serve with something to dip the leaves in. I like mayonnaise or melted butter best, but some people prefer hollandaise or olive oil and vinegar, etc. Keep pulling and nibbling leaves until you get near the centre. Then clear the last bits, including the fluffy stuff (the choke) away from the heart, which is the fleshy disk attached to the stem. A couple more bites, and it is all gone!
Artichokes do interesting things to the taste of other foods eaten with them. I always liked to experiment with this as a child. I still do, sometimes.
Around mid-June our hardneck garlic sends up scapes – curly stems you can eat.
Around the middle of June our hardneck garlic sends up scapes as the bulbs ripen below the soil. Scapes are like flower stems, and they are delicious, only available for a short time each year. They are at their best when they are still curled around. They get tougher later, when they straighten out.
There are lots of recipes for garlic scapes on the internet – garlic scape pesto, pickles, stir fry, and lots more. My own favourite way of using them is to saute them for a couple of minutes in hot olive oil and then serve them up fresh with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt. Pick them up and eat them with your fingers!
Frijoles refritos are easy to make, and Borlotti beans work really well.
Refried beans (frijoles refritos) go with lots of Mexican or Tex/Mex dishes, like quesadillas, huevos rancheros, burritos, or as a dip for tortilla chips. They turn out to be easy to make, and the Borlotti beans that many of us grow work especially well.
One cup of dried beans makes two or three cups of frijoles refritos, depending on how soft you want it.
one cup of dried beans
about 60ml (quarter cup) of oil or lard
one onion, finely chopped
two or three cloves of finely minced garlic
Soak and cook the beans as usual. Drain them, but save the cooking water separately.
In a heavy frying pan, sauté the onions in the oil until they start to brown. Add the garlic, and sauté a bit longer.
Add a big spoonful of the beans, and mash them in well with the onions. Fry them for a while, then add some more beans and mash them in with the rest. Continue until all the beans are fried. This process causes a reaction between the starches and proteins in the beans (a Maillard reaction, if you want to know) which brings out the special flavour.
Now add a bit of the cooking water at a time, mashing it in as you go, until you get the right consistency. Make it a bit sloppier, actually, because they set firmer once they cool. I like to make the dip version quite soft.
Salt the mixture to taste. Beans stand quite a bit of salt sometimes. Keep tasting as you go.