By Benjamin Daniells
Knobbly, dense and flavourful, the Jerusalem Artichoke harvest is one of our largest of the year. Ranging from 3-10cm long and 3-5cm thick, with creamy white flesh, they are robust tubers with an embarrassment of names across the world, including sunchoke, earth apple and sunroot. Here at the Black Swan we endearingly refer to them as J.Chokes.
J.chokes are a versatile component of the winter menu. They have an underlying nutty sweetness, which coupled with the imagination of the guys in the kitchen, means they find themselves in all sorts of places. Previously used to create cakes, ice cream, puree and crisps to name but a few, this year they form part of newest dish; our take on Panettone, a traditional Italian sweet bread prepared for Christmas and New Year. (More about this at the end of this blog)
Weirdly, despite what their name would have you believe, they are neither from Jerusalem, nor are they an artichoke. So thats’s a good start.
There a few theories of how this came to be. The most convincing story is that the pronunciation of it’s Italian name ‘Girasole Artichoke’, was butchered by english speaking Americans into the similarly sounding Jerusalem. The artichoke part coming form an unimaginative french man who sent the tubers home declaring they tasted like artichokes. You may believe what you will. Whatever their history, we love them and we’ve been counting down the days before their seasonal return to the kitchen.
From a garden perspective, they’re perennial and therefore a major win. In my eyes, perennial vegetables should be part of any kitchen garden. For those of you who don’t know, perennial plants live for several years, sometimes indefinitely. So unlike annuals, basically most of the staple vegetables which need replanting every season, perennial veg hang around providing for us year after year. Good examples of edible perennials would be fruit trees and asparagus, plus most of the more tenacious ‘weeds’ such as docks and dandelions. What could be better than plants that relentlessly provide food with minimal attention. Plus perennial have all sorts of benefits for soil food web too.
Like many members of the sunflower family, they can reach up to three metres in height with big yellow flowers around 10cm in diameter. J.chokes are one of the crops we grow at farm scale. In other words, we grow loads. When the garden was first started, Tom designated an acre of the more sandy land on the Banks’ family farm purely for them. Three years on and they’re still going strong. In late summer when the flowers have gone, the huge stalks and rough leaves resemble a young forest swaying in the breeze. Over time they will need some muck or compost to keep up with the prolific harvests we are used to. It is even possible we may eventually need a new patch planting altogether, yet for now they’re doing great. Long may it last.
I do offer one word of warning, J.chokes are so persistent, they’re actually hard to get rid of. When I say plant a new patch, that doesn’t mean the old one will stop producing. They tend to settle and stay put. Probably forever if you gave them chance. So think twice about where you plant them, yet plant some you should.
As mentioned J. Chokes have made their way on to the menu in a slightly different format this year. Nick, our development chef, with his weird and wonderful genius thoughts, decided to create a different take on the Panettone. Merging the produce of The Black Swan garden with this traditional Christmas sweet bread…
Panettone with Clotted Cream
Diced Jerusalem Artichoke, Carrot and Beetroot cooked in syrup, dried and then soaked in rum. The Panettone is then cooked like French toast in milk, egg and Apricot Schnapps and served with Clotted Cream.
“The really pressing question here is ‘why weren’t we making panettone from candied beets, squashes and Jerusalem artichokes before..?’” – Nick Brown- Development Chef at The Black Swan Oldstead
Follow Ben over on Instagram @theblackswangarden to see what else he is growing and foraging here at The Black Swan at Oldstead.