|Jerusalem artichoke sunflowers|
Imagine gazing at Belgium’s dense, flannel-gray sky painted with autumn leaves in hues of red, orange and yellow as the boat you are motoring on slides through the canal waters near Antwerp, your boyfriend by your side. That’s how my daughter Marina spent a day of her semester break … the rest of the week, she assures me, will be spent doing nothing but writing her research papers.
Honestly, I can imagine it. Last Christmas, Marina gave me the book “A Culinary Journey in Gascony” by Kate Hill. Kate runs a sort of barge-and-breakfast on a French canal boat and I devoured every description and recipe as I toured the waterways from Bordeaux to Toulouse from my living room couch.
In the depths of last winter I was so smitten with the book that I made a trip to Wegman’s for celeriac, so I could try Kate’s Soupe aux Deux Celeris (aka Two-Celery Soup). I made it for the gang of cousins in State College at Nonna’s house. Suffice to say, when planting seeds this spring, I sowed a flat of Giant of Prague celeriac. Celeriac is a plant that likes moist soil, so during this droughty summer I was a wee bit concerned. When I harvested the celeriac last week I got some fine-looking nobs, but certainly, no giants.
Soupe aux Deux Celeris
1 large celery root (or three of mine)
1 small bunch celery and the tasty yellow leaves for garnish
2-3 shallots, peeled and chopped
2 oz. bacon, diced
1 tsp. butter
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. crème fraiche
Freshly ground nutmeg
Peel celery root and chop into large chunks. Chop celery stalks. Set aside. Place shallots, bacon and butter in 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Stir until bacon is cooked. Remove from pan and set aside.
Toss celery root and celery into pan and coat with bacon fat. Add salt and pepper and cover with 1 quart water. Let the soup come to a boil, then turn down heat and cook until celery is soft. Remove from heat and swirl in dollop of crème fraiche. Serve soup topped with shallots and bacon, as well as a sprinkling of fresh pepper, ground nutmeg and a sprig of celery leaves.
Rooting for More
Joining the celery root in the Fleur-de-Lys refrigerator is another root vegetable that is native to North America, although it goes by the unlikely name of Jerusalem artichoke. Jerusalem artichokes are actually the tubers of towering sunflowers. We’re selling these for eating or planting – but be forewarned. It is said that if you plant a Jerusalem artichoke, it will never leave the spot, because, dig as you may, a tuber is always left deep underground, ready to sprout the next summer.
I always wait until we’ve had a few good frosts before harvesting Jerusalem artichokes so the starchy inulin is converted into fructose. Back in the 1600s, European culinary writers were enthusiastic about this North American Indian tuber until it was discovered, as Englishman John Goodyer wrote, the tubers “cause a filthy, loathsome, stinking wind within the body”, according to Sally Fallon’s “Nourishing Traditions”.
Fortunately, inulin dissolves in hot water, so flatulence can be avoided by cooking. Lemon juice added to the cooking water will also prevent the iron-rich flesh from turning black. A long period of cold storage (several frosts) will also help the inulin break down. I’ve got a cast-iron stomach, but I’ve never had any stomach distress by adding slices of raw Jerusalem artichokes to a winter salad – but again, be forewarned.
Raw or slightly cooked Jerusalem artichokes are recommended for people with diabetes, according to Fallon, because most of the starch is unavailable. She recommends mixing them with plenty of butter or cream, so the absorption of simple sugars into the bloodstream is gradual.
To cook Jerusalem artichokes, scrub them clean of any soil and drop them into boiling water for about 10-12 minutes, adding fresh lemon juice to the cooking water during the last five minutes. Drain. Slice and sauté in butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and little lemon zest if you like.
Enjoy these new tastes! Laurie Lynch
A Shameless Commercial: In “Nourishing Traditions” Sally Fallon recommends peeling Jerusalem artichokes. I prefer leaving the peel on but scrubbing them well with the vegetable brushes I sell in the shop. I love these soft but sturdy brushes and use them day in and day out for washing hen eggs.
A Shameless Compliment: A woman came into the shop a few weeks ago to buy Music garlic for planting. She asked if she should use cow manure or chicken manure as a soil amendment. I told her I’ve never had cow manure, so I use what I have – chicken manure. She said, “Well, then that’s what I’ll use. I want to do it just like you do it.” After she left, tears were rolling down my cheeks. I’ve always kidded a friend of mine about her fan club (she is a professional singer) and now, as I approach my swan song, it looks like I have a fan club too.
A Shameless Plea: Does anyone know if it is possible to add more than one photo to a blog? I wanted to show closeups of freshly dug Jerusalem artichokes and celeriac, but couldn’t figure out the technology. And whoops, I thought the Jerusalem artichokes photo would replace the large fall photo of the chalkboard.
Written on the Slate Chalkboard at Nonna’s home as a gentle reminder from her grandson: “In every life we have some trouble, when you worry, you make it double. Don’t worry, be happy.” Bobby McFerrin