Thursday, April 24, 2014

Big Dig - Spring Roots

Today we dug over wintered roots.  There is nothing quite like the flavor of freshly dug roots in spring - new flavors after the long winter.

First we dug parsnips.  Parsnips are a white root from the carrot family.  They are sweet and even sweeter when allowed to winter in the soil for spring harvest.  Usually parsnips are big, and people worry that the centers are tough and woody.  This year we had to plant a second crop and some were not thinned, so we have some small parsnips.  These are the elite - delicate and quick cooking.  I have scrubbed, topped, steamed about three minutes, drained sliced lengthwise and cook with butter in a heavy skillet just to the point when they turn golden and slightly brown - caramelizing with the butter is sweet and rich.  Delicious!

Then we dug sunchokes.  These are also known as Jerusalem artichokes - neither from Jerusalem, nor related to artichokes.  In fact they are indigenous tubers that are related to sunflowers.  They have a crisp nutty quality, and I often use them in place of water chestnuts.  They can be eaten raw, cooked or pickled.  I do not peel - just scrub where the skin overlaps to remove any soil.  

My favorite is to scrub, cut into thin slices, saute with a fat or oil that will take heat, and add minced garlic and tamari or soy sauce just before serving.  Ken makes pickles with a salt brine, turmeric, garlic and hot pepper; the pickles retain their crunch and the slight nutty quality really comes out.  These roots are also sought by people as they contain inulin, related to insulin that often helps with blood sugar issues.

Finally Ken dug the burdock root, known as gobo in Japan.  There people consider it a health food - good for a spring blood cleanse and toner.  Add burdock to soups, stews, and also cook gobo and carrots cut in match stick shapes in a style called kinpira;  it uses vegetables of the season - squash in fall, peppers and eggplant in summer, and gobo and carrots in spring.  The kinpira recipe can be found here

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