ALTHOUGH I love all four seasons for what they are – or in the case of summer, what it isn’t, these days – I am rather annoyed that winter has butted into autumn by making an early appearance.
Three consecutive mornings earlier this month we woke up to massive frosts. So heavy, that the landscape looked as though it had been touched with a covering of snow. All very pretty, especially when the sun came up, but a disaster for my dahlias and veg garden, all of which were a gonner.
I can usually rely on the dahlias for colour well into November before they get frosted, and am picking beans and courgettes until the end of this month, but sadly this year these things have been curtailed far too early.
Having had a disastrous time with courgettes last year – only one courgette to show from three plants – things were going rather well on that front, and our beans were producing unbelievable crops until the frost cast its premature spell. The fact I was getting rather fed-up with picking, slicing, blanching and freezing runner beans is neither here nor there…
Luckily we have other veg that are unaffected, such as beetroot, carrots, lettuces of various varieties, spinach, and chard etc. I have just dug up my first batch of Jerusalem artichokes, which is always a sure sign that autumn is here in my book, with their earthy and distinctive taste.
Not to be confused with the round leafy artichokes that grow above the ground, these are knobbly tubers that grow under the ground. Members of the daisy family, the plants grow to vast heights topped with a bright yellow flower and are very easy to grow.
They are delicious, boiled or steamed, or fried or roasted, when they go sticky and a wonderful rich golden colour. Small potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes roasted together make a lovely accompaniment to meat. In fact they are a good vegetable accompaniment to most things. I like to make artichoke crisps by slicing them into very thin rounds and frying them in a little oil, or by brushing them with oil and crisping up in a hot oven for a few minutes. Either way, finish with a sprinkling of salt.
These are very good to nibble with a drink, or scattered over starters and salads to decorate and add a final tasty flourish. Jerusalem artichokes are available in supermarkets, greengrocers and farmers’ markets from September to March, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy them.
One caveat is that they go mushy very quickly, so steaming is a safer way to cook them than boiling. Having said that, I simmer mine for around 10 minutes in their skins and then peel them after cooking.
:: Jane will be demonstrating at the Living North Fair, Gosforth Park at noon on Friday, November 2.
:: Find lots more simple but contemporary recipes in Jane’s book, Make it Easy, available from bookshops, Amazon and www.janelovett.com
:: Follow Jane on Twitter @Jane_Lovett