28/07/2016

Summer Harvest

Comments very welcome!

Harvested from the allotment today!

Summer harvest of perennial vegetables
Summer harvest of perennial vegetables

In the basket:

(Centre) Globe artichokes
Horseradish greens (large leaves, top left)
(moving clockwise) Welsh onions
Buck's horn plantain
Day lily buds (in front of plantain)
Garden sorrel
Variegated Daubenton kale
Wild cabbage
(in front of wild cabbage, centre outwards...)
Turkish rocket, bladder campion and grape vine leaves
Daubenton kale
Sea kale
Good King Henry
Chives

23/07/2016

Weeding the Wintercress

Comments very welcome!

I've had to do some heavy weeding on a couple of my perennial vegetable beds - those beds which I've neglected to either plant with a weed-suppressing ground-cover or to mulch with sufficient grass cuttings or compost or the like!

Luckily things sometimes survive beneath the weeds and I was pleased to rescue some young variegated common wintercress plants, Barbarea vulgaris 'Variegata'.

Barbarea vulgaris 'Variegata'
Barbarea vulgaris 'Variegata'

I'd had common wintercress in my mind as a biennial plant but I bought some seeds for this plant earlier this year after reading in Stephen Barstow's book that it is sometimes a short-lived perennial. Or possibly a long-lived perennial - Stephen writes about a plant he has which is about 20 years old, although that one is sterile and may be a hybrid with B.vulgaris var. arcuata.

My wintercress should self-seed freely anyway, even if it doesn't last long. So now that it's been saved from the weeds I'll keep a patch going and look forward to enjoying its peppery flavour in winter salads.

26/06/2016

Tofu Stir-fry with Horseradish Greens

Comments very welcome!

We had a tofu stir-fry for tea. It was made with several perennial vegetables including one I hadn't tried before - horseradish leaves. I had to hack back some weeds to find my horseradish plant but it seemed to have survived quite well.

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) is a vigorous long-lived plant and (as I have now found!) it is well worth growing for its leaves as well as its root (used in horseradish sauce). The leaves used raw give a fiery kick to salads but can also be cooked.

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)

I nibbled a leaf whilst harvesting. It was very mustardy. Once cooked the leaves were much milder with a good flavour - a sweetish taste I thought but there were so many different flavours in this dish that I'm not too sure! If you grow horseradish try some cooked leaves and see what you think.

Tofu Stir-fry with Horseradish Greens

Tofu Stir-fry with Horseradish Greens
Serves 4
Serve with boiled rice

Ingredients

block of tofu (mine was 396g)
For marinade:
4 tblsp light soy sauce
1 tblsp lemon juice
1 tblsp white wine vinegar
1 tblsp maple syrup
4 bulbs of green garlic, chopped finely
3 cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
For rest of dish:
the tops of 4 green garlic plants chopped
1 cup of chopped baby broad beans
a handful of daylily buds (optional)
1 cup of chopped horseradish leaves
1 cup of chopped Caucasian spinach leaves 
(Could substitute spinach. I included some Good King Henry leaves too.)
a handful of flaked almonds
Sesame oil

Method
  • Place the tofu on a board and press as much liquid out of it as you can (I just did this with my hand). 
  • Cut the block into 1-2 cm cubes and place in a dish. 
  • Mix the ingredients for the marinade together and pour over the tofu. 
  • Place in a refrigerator for at least 30 minutes turning the tofu in the marinade occasionally.
  • In a frying pan heat about 3 tblsp sesame oil over a medium high heat and fry the tofu for a few minutes, turning the cubes a few times, until they begin to turn golden brown, adding more oil if needed. Transfer to a dish and keep warm.
  • Add more oil to the pan and fry the chopped garlic stems for 3 minutes. 
  • Add the chopped broad beans and daylily buds and cook for 3 minutes. 
  • Add the chopped greens and cook for two minutes more.
  • Mix the tofu into the other ingredients in the pan, transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the flaked almonds. 
  • Serve with boiled rice.

I was a bit nervous of serving up this dish as I wasn't sure if a whole cup of chopped horseradish greens might be overpowering. But it was fine; everyone seemed to like the finished result and I'm looking forward to using horseradish leaves again.

22/06/2016

Artichoke ABC

Comments very welcome!

Are your globe artichokes in bud? Have one for lunch!

Globe artichoke bud

Cut off enough stalk so that it will fit in a steamer.

Globe artichoke in steamer

Steam until a scale detaches effortlessly from the bud when you pull it. (This 10cm diameter artichoke took about 25 minutes.)

Globe artichoke with melted butter

Starting near the stem (and discarding the first round or two of scales), start detaching and dipping each scale in melted butter and then by putting the scale between your teeth scrape off the succulent base - and eat! They are quite tasty without any butter too. 

I ploughed right in and forgot to take a photo of the individual scales. But I found these ones later in the debris on the plate - small unscraped scales left (probably from the discarded outer layer) and larger scraped scales right.

Scraped and unscraped scales

Below is the hairy 'choke'. Don't eat this bit, it's hairy. Scrape it out with a spoon.

Globe artichoke choke

This is the 'heart' - the tastiest part. Enjoy! 

Globe artichoke heart

I kept going - the centre of the stalk is good too.

Plate of globe artichoke scales

Easy!

31/05/2016

How fast can a climbing spinach climb?

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In July 2015 I had a bit of fun seeing how fast Hablitzia tamnoides, the Caucasian climbing spinach, was scrambling up the trellis on the garden wall. I posted the results on Stephen Barstow's Friends of Hablitzia tamnoides Facebook group. 40cm in 3 days - more than 0.5cm an hour!

I've just repeated the experiment and the photos are below. The first shot shows the whole plant - well most of it anyway (the one with large, light green, heart-shaped leaves). Its top shoot can be seen above the trellis in front of the ivy. There are more shoots in the vegetation below, held back from climbing the wall by our harvesting. The stumps of harvested shoots take a little while to recover but after a few weeks will sprout from multiple places along their length. A mature Hablitzia plant can be very bushy and produce plentiful harvests over the season.

Hablizia tamnoides - Caucasian climbing spinach

The following photos show the growth over the last seven days of a lesser shoot which is scrambling up to the left of the tall one. (The head of the screw on the second bar of the trellis is a useful reference point for comparing the shoot length).

Hablitzia 1

Hablitzia 2

Hablitzia 3

Hablitzia 4

Hablitzia 5

The growth rate of this shoot over these seven days has been 40cm in 166 hours. A mere 0.24cm an hour! (but then this wasn't the leading shoot and we are in May and not July).

If you have one, how fast does your Hablitzia grow?

24/05/2016

Floret Frittata

Comments very welcome!

I made a frittata with florets, flower buds, flower sprouts, broccolis, (call them what you will!).


They came from sea kale........

Sea kale sprouts

Good King Henry....

Good King Henry flower sprouts

and Turkish rocket....

Turkish rocket flower sprouts

They were steamed for few minutes until just tender, and then stirred into a bowl of four beaten eggs seasoned with chopped garlic chives and salt and pepper. I cooked the mixture in hot oil in a frying pan up until the point when the egg was still very slightly runny.....


and then topped the frittata with some grated cheese and browned it under a hot grill (and stepped outside with it for a better photo!)


At this point my son came downstairs to cook himself some eggs, saw the frittata and asked if he could eat it.

He didn't like it! Said it was 'very vegetabley'. Well it was, and all the better for that! So I had most of it and Stew came in hungry from work and polished of the rest.

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!