Ken has been pruning apple trees. Each year in late winter or early spring, Ken prunes and trims apple trees. If trees have enough air and sunlight they have more energy to produce fruit. Ken works from the ground and then a ladder.
Ken is also digging and planting. He is digging the roots that were over wintered in the soil. These include parsnips, sun chokes and burdock. He is planting both crops to harvest and green manures. In the space where late season potatoes will go in June, he planted peas and oats as green manure to add nutrients and root matter - also known as white manure - to the soil.
From the Kitchen. This week we add two more exotic vegetables that we dig in spring. Sun chokes also known as Jerusalem artichokes - neither related to artichoke nor from Jerusalem! They are an indigenous tuber related to sunflowers. We like them scrubbed, sliced, sauteed with garlic and topped with a bit of tamari or soy sauce. They are good raw as well. their crunchy, slightly nutty flavor and texture makes them perfect as a local ingredient to replace water chestnuts in Asian cooking or a creamy spinach dip.
Burdock root is also known as gobo in Japan. There it is used as a food - they and many alternative health practioners believe gobo tonifies the blood and liver. Our favorite way to prepare gobo is in combination with carrots cooked in a kinpira style. Here is the technique:
Start with a cast iron or heavy skillet. Toast some sesame seeds and set aside. Use a cooking fat or oil that can take heat, and add some dried hot red pepper flakes if desired. Add the vegetable that takes the longer cooking time (gobo in spring and green peppers in summer). Cook over high heat, and keep stirring. Add the second vegetable. Cook to al dente. Add a teaspoon to tablespoon of sugar, Stir to caramelize, but don't burn. Add a splash at a time of a sweet cooking wine like Japanese mirin or sherry. I use homemade parsnip wine. Finally add some good quality tamari or soy sauce. Top with the toasted sesame seeds and serve.
The sequence is important as the sugar and sweet wine seal in the flavors. Experiment as everyone seems to like a different ratio - some like it hotter, others like it sweeter or saltier. The end result is a toasted sweet, salty glazed vegetable with a bit of crunch. Delicious!
'Til next Week, Judith