29/04/2016

How to eat Warty Cabbage!

Comments very welcome!

If you don't mind a mustardy kick to your greens, Warty Cabbage, better known as Turkish Rocket (Bunias orientalis), is a great perennial vegetable.

Turkish Rocket
Turkish Rocket

Once installed, it is a wonderfully self-sufficient plant, seemingly unbothered by pests or drought, but you might want to remove the flowering stems before the seeds form as in the right spot it is a keen self-seeder.

I picked some of the young leaves yesterday:

Turkish Rocket in April
Turkish Rocket in April

Variation in Bunias orientalis leaf shape
Variation in the leaf shape

Turkish rocket leaves on kitchen table
Back home

and set about deciding what to do with it.

A few reports describe the young leaves as mild. Mine certainly aren't, they give quite a punch. I rather like the flavour though and go back for more! After nibbling some raw leaves I blanched some in boiling water as advised for bitter greens and tasted the flavour after 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10 minute soaking times. They became just a little milder over time I would say.

I then followed Turabi Effendi's advice from his collection of Turkish recipes as relayed by William Woys Weaver here. (I've learnt a lot from William Woys Weaver's articles - and have also just discovered he has some videos on You Tube. You can see him here talking about perennial salad greens and suggesting adding salad burnet to complement freshly cooked peas). So, I boiled some leaves in tomato juice with some fried onions and salt. A good taste.

Leaves cooked with onions in tomato juice
Cooked with onions in tomato juice

Mr Weaver mentions that it is a Central European habit to mix the chopped greens with sour cream and minced dill or fennel. I didn't have any sour cream so I tried the leaves with yoghurt and chopped bronze fennel.

Chopped Turkish rocket and bronze fennel
Turkish rocket and bronze fennel

Mixed in yoghurt with fennel
With yoghurt and fennel

That made a really interesting flavour combination and a very delicious lunch alongside some leftover lentil stew on toast! It would be nice with some chopped cucumber in the yoghurt too.

I have had to delve a bit deeper to discover what else to do with warty cabbage (warty because of little bumps on the flower stems which are a useful identification clue). Here are the best of my gleanings.....

Stephen Barstow has a comprehensive Bunias orientalis entry in his book, "Around the World in Eighty Plants," plus a fascinating account on his website of three Thai women foraging for it in Oslo and talking about how they cook it. Here you can watch Jonathan Bates harvesting and cooking Turkish rocket 'broccolis' (4.26 minutes in). And to eat the stems, "just chew - it is delicious" - (from a translation of this site) and you can take some stems home and fry them in batter too. The flowers and the root are also edible.

All in all - just eat it!

22/04/2016

Spring Harvest

Comments very welcome!

Harvested from the allotment today!

Spring harvest of perennial vegetables
Spring harvest of perennial vegetables

In the trug:

Good King Henry (left hand corner with reddish flowers)
(moving right) Lovage
Chives
Babington leek
Globe artichoke
Variegated Daubenton kale
Patience dock (large shiny leaves)
Daubenton kale (in front of dock)
Welsh onion
Scorzonera greens (behind Welsh onion)
Ewiger kohl (everlasting kale)
Sea kale - dark purple leaves
Ice plant (leaves with serrated edge)
Sea beet (shiny leaves in front of artichoke)
Turkish rocket (slightly wilted)
Garden sorrel (shiny, pink tinge)
Salad burnet (feathery)
Buckler leaf sorrel (light green)
Bladder campion (behind buckler-leaved sorrel)

30/03/2016

Trying my Patience

Comments very welcome!

I offer you insincere apologies if the title of this post made you groan! I love a pun and this one is my reward after a long wait to get a good taste of patience dock (Rumex patientia, also known as herb patience, garden patience and monk's rhubarb). I recorded my tribulations with trying to grow this plant here.

But this spring it is looking good and strong....

Patience dock in the allotment

...so I sampled a leaf.

It was beautifully fresh tasting and truly mild (I'd been expecting just a mild-compared-to your-average-pernicious-weed sort of mildness). It was also very slightly lemony but much less sharp than sorrel.

Like Good King Henry it's another forgotten pot-herb that would be worth remembering. But I'm far from the first to make that plea - this is Patrick Neill in 1817 in his An Account of British Horticulture. Drawn up for the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia.
"In old times, garden patience was much cultivated as a spinach. It is now very much neglected, partly perhaps on account of the proper mode of using it not being generally known. The leaves rise early in the spring; they are to be cut while tender, and about a fourth part of common sorrel is to be mixed with them. In this way patience-dock is much used in Sweden, as we have been informed by the late Sir Alexander Seton of Preston, who had an estate in Sweden, and frequently resided there. This mixture may be safely recommended as forming an excellent spinach dish. Garden patience is easily raised from seed, which may be sown in lines, in the manner of common spinach, or white beet. If they be regularly cut over two or three times in the season, they continue in a healthy productive state for several years."
The leaves are said to become quite bitter later in the year but I should imagine that chopping them down so they produce new young foliage is a way of avoiding the bitterness. I'll be trying it anyway. Left to flower, patience dock grows tall, to five feet with ease and in rich soil can get to over eight feet. Removing flower stems before seed is dispersed is worth doing to avoid it springing up all over the garden.

I took some patience dock home to steam it.

Patience dock in the steamer

Removing the midribs from the leaves isn't necessary. I left the midrib on one large leaf and discovered that it cooked almost as quickly as the rest of the leaf i.e. in about three or four minutes.

bowl of steamed patience dock

The texture was pleasingly soft; I can see why it is said to make an excellent purée, but it does need some extra flavour - salt, pepper, chilli, ginger, sorrel maybe.

I think I'll be mostly adding it to salads though. It will be useful to be able to gather large mild leaves produced in abundance. There are plenty of small fiddly salad leaves for the picking at this time of year - they need some patience!

N.B. I have some patience dock plants for sale at the moment. 

28/03/2016

Two steps forward, one step back!

Comments very welcome!

It is the three year anniversary of the Backyard Larder Blog and time for another overview.

Establishing a perennial vegetable allotment can take a while especially if time and money resources are limited. My progress has been stepwise. Sometimes plants have needed resiting as I've begun to better understand their needs - or replacing when I've found they were not what I thought they were! Sometimes beds have needed overhauling to rescue them from couch grass invasion. But I'm getting there. Something that pleased me one day last year was a subtle change I noticed to the feel of the perennial vegetable allotment. Annual allotment plots often return to something of a blank slate at the end of each growing year but here the perennial nature of the planting is gradually allowing the place to develop into a real garden with its own special character.

Apple tree


hugelkultur herb bed

But there are plenty of rough areas to work on. I was working on this messy pond last year.

renovating an old pond

Come summer it was a colourful riot, but the weeds had crept in, threatening to stifle the sorrel, alexanders, angelica, dahlias, skirret and other herbs and vegetables that are planted there.

pond in summer

I've tidied up again now and am looking forward to the plants getting properly established this year.

pond in early spring

There is a very welcome development in the pond too!...

frogspawn

Progress is slow in the move towards polycultures on the perennial vegetable beds. I'm still experimenting and trying to establish plants. This year there should be some oca coming up amongst the tree kales and perennial onions - and some tree kales coming up amongst the Bocking 14 comfrey! This little ground-hugging comfrey (Symphytum ibericum) may prove useful in some places (at present around the fruit bushes).

Symphytum ibericum
Symphytum ibericum

I put the brassica protection plan that I posted about last March into action. So I now have a large brassica cage over three beds made from very wide gauge pea netting that has been safe from destruction by wind. I was worried that the pigeons might be able to fly straight into it but this hasn't happened - I think they do walk in and peck at plants on the ground but they haven't flown up and eaten the tall brassicas. A bit of finer netting at ground level should hopefully keep them out altogether.

Brassica cage

The best of the new perennial vegetable discoveries over the last year have been oyster plant, hosta shoots, bladder campion and patience dock.

Oyster plant
Oyster plant
Hosta shoots
Hosta shoots

Bladder campion
Bladder campion
Patience dock
Patience dock

Of the plants we were already eating skirret has become established as a firm favourite and sea beet is now as popular as chard. The wild cabbage all finally died out and I'm having some trouble overwintering chicories. But I keep trying and will be replanting both of these this year along with replacement asparagus (after my first failed attempt) and I have an exciting collection of new plants to try from seed too.

Finally the longed for Bath asparagus....the good news is it did produce a flower stalk last year. Hurray! The bad news is it somehow got snapped off before the flower could open....Alas!

Bath asparagus with broken bud

This year perhaps?!....

27/02/2016

Making a Meal of It.

Comments very welcome!

I've been on an allotment forage today. I tried to find ingredients for as complete a meal from the perennial veggies as I can manage. Here's my bounty:

Mixed ingredients for a perennial vegetable winter meal

I gathered scorzonera, skirret and Jerusalem artichoke roots, Babington leeks, Portuguese kale, rosemary, sage, along with garden sorrel, salad burnet, bladder campion  and scorzonera greens. The plan is to roast the roots with the herbs and top them with a sorrel sauce, and serve them with steamed kale and a salad of the greens.

I'll be back to report on how it turns out!........

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So this was my tea.

Meal made from perennial vegetables with side salad

The lime green is the sorrel sauce. I used the electric blender and whizzed together sorrel, Babington leek shanks, some yoghurt and salt and pepper. I think the meal would definitely have lacked something without the yoghurt (other non-allotment additions I made were oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper). The sauce was delicious with the roasted roots - especially with the skirret. The Jerusalem artichoke and scorzonera are tasty enough but skirret is really in a class of its own! I roasted the bulb portion of the Babington leeks with the roots but they were a bit bitter used that way, something I found another year when I used them in soup.

The kale was good - I'm a kale lover anyhow, but Portuguese kale is a particularly well-flavoured variety.

I cleared my plate with relish - but left half the salad. It was a bit fibrous. The bladder campion was tender but I should probably have searched out the tinier leaves of the scorzonera; at this time of year the bigger leaves are a little bit on the tough side and salad burnet tends in that direction at the best of times.

A slightly unusual meal but it was filling, warming and satisfying which is what I want on a cold winter day!

19/02/2016

Risotto with Bladder Campion - or Bubbolini!

Comments very welcome!

Bladder campion (Silene vulgaris) - another useful perennial vegetable.

Silene-vulgaris-170704-800-1
Bladder Campion (Michael H. Lemmer  CC BY-SA 2.5) 

Evergreen throughout this last winter and leafing up quickly now that spring approaches.

Bladder campion leaves in February
State of growth in February 2016

The leaves are mild and slightly pea-like in flavour. I could detect no bitterness. Best harvested before flowering.

Harvested sprigs of bladder campion leaves
Harvested sprigs

The plant has a long history of use in the Mediterranean especially in Italy. One can turn up countless Italian names for bladder campion: stridolo, strigoli, carletti, sculpit, grisolon, bubbolini, coietti, cannateddi, schioppettino, cavoli della comare, tagliatelle della Madonna, erba del cucco and virzuli are just a small sample!

In Italian style I cooked the leaves in a risotto (along with Babington leek, shallot, white wine and soft Italian cheese).

Risotto di Vizuli
Risotto di Vizuli

It is also used in many other ways: pasta sauces, as a stuffing in ravioli, and in frittata, salads and stews. I'm looking forward to making a vegetarian version of this Spanish dish Potaje de garbanzos con collejas y bacalao (chickpea stew with bladder campion and cod).

28/01/2016

Skirret Pasties

4 Comments

I was proud of these skirret pasties I cooked last night as they were my own invention and were both unique and delicious!

Ingredients: Skirret roots (maybe about 200g), 3 young Babington leeks, handful of chives, handful of everlasting onion, 1 elephant garlic clove, large handful sea beet leaves, bunch of fresh thyme sprigs, olive oil, salt and pepper. For the pastry: 150g wholemeal flour, 150g white flour, 60ml olive oil, 120ml water, 1 tsp salt.

Ingredients for skirret pasties

I experimented with olive oil pastry for these pasties using the recipe on this blog which I was pleased to discover for its good Mediterranean recipes too. (I'd like to have a go at growing oil seeds and pressing my own oil so I like to learn about baking with oil rather than margarine. Also I can't buy margarine without buying plastic.) I put the pastry in the fridge whilst I made the pasty filling.

Bowl of olive oil pastry

I roasted the skirret roots with olive oil and salt and pepper. They took only about 10 minutes in a hot oven.

Roasted skirret roots

The chives, onion, garlic and leeks were sautéed in olive oil and the slightly shredded sea beet leaves were wilted on top before adding the fresh thyme leaves and the roasted skirret.

Sautéed alliums, with wilted sea beet leaves, thyme and skirret roots

A side plate (18cm diameter) made a good template for cutting out the pastry circles. A smear of water around the edge.....

Filling the pasties

makes the sides of the circle easy to squeeze together for crimping into the classic pasty shape.

Completed skirret pasty

At this point I realized I'd forgotten to put any salt in the pastry so I glazed them with salt water and sprinkled a little extra salt on top! They were baked in a hot oven for about 25 minutes until golden brown.

Skirret pasties ready for baking

They were very good. Skirret is so sweet and it tasted great with the very slightly bitter sea beet. The pastry turned out a little hard though, acceptable but not luscious!

Dish of skirret pasties

Stew and I ate three between the two of us and the fourth one has gone to work with him today!