Jerusalem artichokes have a very mild flavour reminiscent of water chestnuts and can be cooked like potatoes i.e. boiled, fried or baked, while fresh ones can also be added to salads. I have found that the best way to clean them is to use an old toothbrush, and also, don't bother peeling your tubers as the skin will easily rub off after they have been boiled.
Just like potatoes, Jerusalem artichoke plants store carbohydrate in their tubers, but unlike potatoes, it is in the form of inulin rather than starch. Now whereas inulin is an excellent choice for diabetics or anyone who is starch intolerant, we can't digest it, though bacteria in the lower intestine feed off inulin and this is what causes, as Goodyer so delicately put it, 'loathesome stinking winde'.
I have read a number of suggestions on how to solve this problem, which include: boiling the tubers and discarding the water after cooking them, but, of course, that won't help if you want to fry them or eat them raw; leaving the tubers in the ground over-winter so they will get frosted - this breaks down the inulin to fructose and in doing so, it makes the tubers sweeter; keep eating them, as the more you eat, the quicker your body will become accustomed to the inulin; and finally add the herb asafoetida to your food.
SO DID ANYTHING WORK?
This cannot be described by any stretch of the imagination as a 'scientific' study, but I found that boiling the tubers and discarding the water didn't make a blind bit of difference. Frozen - then thawed and cooked - tubers did taste sweeter, but still caused the 'usual' side-effects. The only thing that seemed to work was adding asafoetida to the cooked tubers, but it has such a strong taste, it must be used very judiciously, otherwise it overpowers all the other flavours. As to 'keeping on eating' the tubers, I just haven't had the nerve to do this. But if the food-processing industry has its way and inulin is added to more foodstuffs, who knows, in a few years we might all be so accustomed to it that Jerusalem artichokes no longer give us 'filthie loathesome stinking winde' and they are never again viewed as only 'fit for swine'.
See page 90 for full details of suppliers
'Sugarball' Edulis, Flowers Piece, Ashampstead,
Berkshire RG8 8SG Tel 01635 5781 13
Every inch of space is crucial in a small garden, as Peter Surridge knows. This month he brings you his round up of varieties that can cut it when it comes to competing for limited resources in a small plot
ONE of the keys to success in a small kitchen garden like mine is choosing varieties that produce the best crops in the space allocated. Best, for me, does not necessarily mean biggest or earliest. I am looking for plants that are tough enough to put up reasonable resistance against pests and diseases, sufficiently assertive to claim their share of light and moisture when planted closer than usual - and are, above all, delicious.
After growing more than 1000 varieties over many years - in Warwickshire loam, Essex clay and Cheshire coastal sand -1 am just about ready to make a list of provisional recommendations of some of the most popular vegetable types. Obviously, I cannot claim to have tried every variety under the sun but, I promise you, these are all well worth trying.
At the same time, I'd be interested to hear about your well-tried favourites.
We can detect no difference in Jerusalem artichoke flavours but 'Fuseau' is one of the easiest to prepare. Among the globe types, 'Green Globe' is vigorous and dependable.
For a good all-round variety, nothing beats 'Super Aquadulce', a strain of longpod bean and one of the hardiest, for autumn or very early spring sowing. It germinates quickly, flowers early and produces numerous tasty beans in late May and June weeks before its rivals. Related strains such as 'Aquadulce Claudia' are also good. If you want a true gourmet bean, sow 'Green Windsor' in spring. It will never yield a bumper crop but the flavour is excellent.
Bean, climbing French
'Cobra' is quick to germinate, tremendously vigorous and produces tender pods, full of flavour, from the end of July until early September. This overlaps neatly with the best late variety, 'Blauhilde', which yields purple pods for a month from mid-August.
This is not a vegetable to get dogmatic about - there are numerous fine varieties with no indisputable champion. I like all of these. 'Kelvedon Marvel', produces short, chunky, plentiful pods with quite a strong flavour over a long season. Pick 'em young because they became stringy quite quickly. For prime, mid-season beans, there are 'Liberty' and 'Aintree', show bench strains with long stringless pods, equally outstanding on the table.
If I grew only one it would 'Pablo', an F1 globe variety, which replaces
'Boltardy' for vigour, quality and taste. 'Moneta' is also excellent and reduces the need for thinning because it grows only one plant per seed.
These are both modern globe types but my favourite long beetroot for storing is the veteran 'Cheltenham Green Top'.
April harvests are so rare that 'Late Purple Sprouting' remains the most reliable and enjoyable for me. However, 'Rudolph', is great if you want an early crop. It is not usually quite ready for the visit of Santa Claus, as its name implies, but crops very early in the New Year and, on the palate, has a hint of asparagus.
Many new brussels are appearing in the seed catalogues so there is always the prospect of better kinds emerging. However, for the time being, I recommend 'Doric' or 'Brilliant' for autumn cropping and 'Millennium' or the huge 'Trafalgar' - 1.2m (4ft) tall with monster sprouts - for after Christmas.
For spring maturity, the latest Offenham strain, 'Offenham 2 Flower of Spring', a large, semi-pointed type, takes some beating - firm hearted, crisp and tasty. 'Frostie' and the round variety 'Spring Hero' probably produce the heaviest crops.
For continuity into summer, 'Earliest of All' is the one, maturing from mid-June in good years. 'Golden Acre', the best-known maincrop, has harvested erratically over the many years I have grown it, though it has never has let me down completely. However, I now tend to favour newer F1 hybrids such as 'Candissa', yielding an early harvest of small, sweet heads.
Savoys and white cabbages - suitable for using raw in coleslaw as well as for cooking - are my tips for winter. F1 hybrid savoy
'Capriccio' is a tasty, reliable autumn variety. The small to medium heads are usually ready for cutting in September but will stand until November. The F1 'voy' range is good, with 'Supervoy' a superb late cropper for cutting through to March.
Of the white kinds, 'Holland Winter White' and its derivatives have served me well for some 20 years. Where space is severely limited, 'Tundra', an F1 hybrid bred from savoy and white cabbage parents, provides crisp, sweet heads for cooking or coleslaw.
For over wintering, in a cold frame if necessary, the F1 'Eskimo' produces larger, better-flavoured carrots than the old favourite 'Amsterdam Forcing', though I still prefer the latter for early-spring sowings under cover. If I could grow only one maincrop carrot, it would be 'Favor', a Nantes type, which has produced splendid crops for four successive years - since it was introduced. For late summer 'Yellowstone', though not worth pulling before mid-July, yields large, strongly flavoured carrots with tremendous carrotfly resistance.
In three years' tests, the F1 'Thompson' has established an outstanding summer reputation, producing firm, heavy and shapely heads of first-class taste and texture. For September, the small-headed green variety 'Alverda' is fine. For March and April, 'Walcheren Winter Pilgrim' produces medium-sized, pointed curds over some weeks. A month later 'Maystar', a strain selected for the British climate, provides huge heads - up to 3.2kg (7lb).
Green courgettes, both dark and pale (Lebanese) types, have more taste than the yellow ones. The new self-pollinating variety 'Parthenon' was phenomenally successful for me last year, setting plenty of fruits despite poor weather, at crucial times. Dark green 'Sylvana' has harvested well over three years. My wife Jackie and I considered pale-green 'Clarita' to have the best flavour but 'Clarion' seems to be the only Lebanese type readily available.
There's only one for cultivating under glass - 'Flamingo', from which I routinely gather 70 or more fine specimens per plant.
For epicures, 'Blusta' is a good purple type, maturing very quickly, while 'Lanro', a pale-green F1, follows a little later.
To make the most of leeks' long season, grow F1 'Oarsman' for pre-Christmas eating when its taste and texture are best, 'Mammoth Blanch' for New Year and 'Yates Empire' for the full season - it will stand into April and is also the best leek for thin or sandy soils.
Nothing beats the semi-cos 'Little Gem Delight', an improved form of its eponymous parent, for all-round quality but, if you prefer a larger cos, choose the nutty-flavoured 'Claremont'. For the great flavour of crisphead lettuce, grow 'Balmoral'.
The F1 hybrids 'Badger Cross', 'Zebra Cross' and 'Tiger Cross' are as good as any.
'Eiffel' and 'Iskikura' are among the best.
'Red Baron' is attractive and mild flavoured when eaten raw in salads, and also good when cooked. 'Jet Set', pale yellow, matures quickly. Both of these are pretty well tear-free, too. 'Centurion' is golden skinned.
The F1 hybrids introduced in recent years have been disappointing in size and eating quality, while old 'un 'Tender and True' remains just that.
When I first moved north more than 20 years ago, it was impossible to grow a worthwhile crop over winter but in recent years, 'Feltham First', which used to grow well on my Essex allotment, responded well to autumn sowing, outperforming half a dozen other varieties for earliness and flavour.
Stalwart 'Kelvedon Wonder' is worth growing for sheer dependable earliness and fairly good flavour but 'Canoe' is superb, producing thin-skinned long pods with up to 12 peas in each, for harvesting only a few days after 'Kelvedon Wonder'. For a tall-growing summer maincrop, 'Show Perfection' looks and tastes wonderful. For a weighty harvest of mangetout peas over several weeks, 'Oregon Sugar Pod' is unbeatable.
There are 20 or more kinds of spud that we love but consider 'Lady Christl' to be the best all-round variety; lovely as a new potato, good boiled, mashed, baked or roasted when more mature - we don't do chips - and a reasonable keeper. The best new potato/salad types include 'Belle de Fontenay', 'BF15', 'Linzer Delikatess' and 'Juliette'. For mashing and baking, 'Osprey' and the new, blight-resistant 'Sarpo Mira', which stores extremely well, are excellent.
Old tends to be best with spicy 'French Breakfast' and slow maturing but sweet-and-peppery 'Cherry Belle' top of the list. But 'Sofia', a new, larger variety, pleasantly mild with a hint of pepper, is worth further investigation.
Annual spinach is regarded as the best flavoured but often bolts in dry summers. I now prefer a high-quality spinach beet (perpetual spinach), which crops throughout droughts and into the winter. The leaves are tender without an over-strong taste.
Like potatoes, these include numerous varieties that we find mouth-watering, but four greenhouse cordon types are so good that we try to include them every year: 'Gardener's Delight', the early-maturing 'Stupice', long, pointed 'Andine Cornue' (Horn of Andes) and 'Beefeater'. The new 'Fantasio' is promising, too.
* Most of the varieties mentioned are widely available. See page 90 for seed company contact details.
Kitchen Garden Offer
ORDER YOUR FREE* BUMPER VEGETABLE COLLECTION NOW
AND SAVE OVER £10
Only* £2.30 postage to pay
Lettuce TOm Thu
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KG Reader Offers
Chives, Lettuce 'Tom Thumb',
Parsley, Spring onion "White Lisbon',
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Cut your seed bills and add variety to your garden with this superb offer, exclusive to KG readers. Eight varieties worth £12.40 (inc p&p) from kitchen garden specialist, The Fruit & Vegetable Company, can be yours for just the postage cost of £2.30.
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Baby beet 'Pronto' - pull young to get tender roots. Forms very quickly and is perfect for early or later sowings. Can be harvested as baby beet or allowed to grow to the size of a tennis ball before lifting.
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Spalding PE12 8SG
Please make your cheque/postal order for £2.30 payable to 'The Fruit & Vegetable Company' and write your name and address on the back.
Only one order per household. Offer available while stocks last. The Fruit & Vegetable Company reserves the right to substitute with similar varieties when necessary.
Offer applies to UK and Eire only and ends on 30 April 2006.
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