Sunday, November 11, 2012

Growing and cooking Jerusalem artichoke ( or sunchoke or white man's ginger)

This root is most commonly known as Jerusalem artichoke or sun choke.  Though it is not a plant native to China, it has been cultivated there for over 300 years now.  Fittingly, the Chinese also call it "gwai geung", which is translated as "devil's (or "ghost's" - with devil or ghost meaning a foreigner) ginger".  By the looks of the simple stir fried dish above, you can see how it might resemble ginger.  To make this sort of nutty, sort of beany tasting side dish, scrub the roots very well, cut into pieces, and lightly stir fry in oil.  Then, add about 1/4 cup water, stir, cover, and steam for another few minutes until crisp-tender.  This dish is finished with some spring onions and sea salt.  

Above: some little reject roots, too small to use.  Below, the bases of the very tall stalks.  To harvest Jerusalem artichokes, dig them up carefully as you need them anytime between fall and the middle of the cold season.  These plants are very hardy and while a frost may damage leaves, roots are fine underground.

Sometime before the ground freezes hard, harvest all the roots and be sure to save some roots to replant for next year's crop.  Replant roots immediately in rows about 1 foot apart.  Jerusalem artichoke plants spread.  Spring brings new growth and summer brings cheery yellow/orange flowers.  A beautiful and tasty plant!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Gargantuan winter melon!

Have you ever seen such a thing?!  This is a winter melon, aka wax gourd, next to a full-size basketball!!  The wax coating will help keep this melon fresh for months.  Winter melon is mild and really juicy - perfect for adding to a light and tasty soup.  White inside, once it's cooked, the winter melon takes on a beautiful translucency and the flavor of whatever it is cooked in.  This is the melon that banquet chefs will carve in a bas-relief fashion, pour soup into and steam whole for a pretty darn showy presentation.  Honestly though, I'm not sure what kind of steamer this particular winter melon could be cooked in! 
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