Late in the growing season as autumn is in full swing, it is time to consider harvesting root vegetables. I have a few favorites, some more favored than others for specific reasons explained here.
Now, carrots, of course, could be everyone’s favorite along with potatoes. When I was a baby, I especially enjoyed beets. As was customary, I sometimes ate them with my hands and ended up wiping my hands in my hair, giving it a reddish tint.
Tonight, my wife made a beet salad with greens and topped with a dollop of warm goat cheese that was rolled in walnuts. It was dressed with raspberry vinegar, shallots, and olive oil.
“The Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), also called sunroot, sunchoke, earth apple or topinambour, is a species of sunflower native to eastern North America, and found from eastern Canada and Maine west to North Dakota, and south to northern Florida and Texas. It is also cultivated widely across the temperate zone for its tuber, which is used as a root vegetable.”
While visiting my daughter in London, and dining at St. Johns Tavern in Islington, I noticed they often serve Jerusalem artichoke on the menu accompanying something as an alternative to potatoes, for instance.
“The St Johns Tavern is primarily a pub and dining room serving British cuisine, using seasonal, locally sourced produce. Due to the owners’ travels and wanderings, there is a healthy showing of European regional cooking, but the style remains cohesive, hearty, simple and unfussy.”
Today, they are serving parsnips.
“Despite its name, the Jerusalem artichoke has no relation to Jerusalem, and it is not a type of artichoke, though both are members of the daisy family.”
People sometimes have trouble digesting Jerusalem artichokes.
“The carbohydrates give the tubers a tendency to become soft and mushy if boiled, but they retain their texture better when steamed. The inulin cannot be broken down by the human digestive system, which can cause flatulence and, in some cases, gastric pain. Gerard's Herbal, printed in 1621, quotes the English planter John Goodyer on Jerusalem artichokes:
"which way soever they be dressed and eaten, they stir and cause a filthy loathsome stinking wind within the body, thereby causing the belly to be pained and tormented, and are a meat more fit for swine than men."
That is one of many reasons I prefer the vegetable oyster, aka salsify.
“Tragopogon porrifolius, a plant with linear leaves cultivated for its light-skinned edible root and herbal properties”
At Thanksgiving time, one of the treats that my Mother served at large feasts was oyster dressing. Oyster dressing could be problematic in those days because rural Ohio was a long distance from any ocean where oysters would be harvested. Interestingly, a grand ancestor was an oysterman from Maryland. Anyway, becoming ill from bad oysters is most unpleasant.
My Father came to the rescue one year when he planted a lovely flower called salsify. Its roots are harvested like Jerusalem artichokes, however they taste exactly like oysters when cooked. Substituted in dressing, no one could tell the difference and no one got sick either.
When considering nutritional properties, once again it was discovered that they are “extremely high in fibre and low in calories, salsify promotes regular, natural bowel movements, making it suitable for people of all ages.”
While dining this evening, I could not help by stare at a monoprint by Maureen Radcliffe George titled, "Butterfly, a version of 'One fine day' whereby she reminded me of root vegetables.