If it had been 20 degrees warmer visitors could easily have imagined that they had been transported somewhere north of the Equator. Crammed with an incredible array of rare fruits and vegetables Jan’s Garden has a distinctly tropical feel. Jan has even managed to make paved areas and pathways productive by filling them with an impressive collection of potted herbs and shrubs.
After being welcomed with a hot cup of Jan’s delicious pumpkin soup, visitors were introduced to some of Jan’s more interesting vegetables. “People are always giving me strange things to grow” says Jan, gesturing towards a table overflowing with a cornucopia of unusual edibles.
Jan likes to eat skirret root in salad. Although related to carrots this perennial root vegetable is now seldom grown. Skirret’s long white roots can be boiled, stewed or roasted, but the core is inedible and should be removed before cooking.
Another of Jan’s favourite salad ingredients is yacon. Yacon has a tuber that looks a lot like a dahlia’s, but unlike the dahlia it is not poisonous. The tubers are crisp and sweet, tasting a bit like apple or watermelon. The yacon is related to the Jerusalem artichoke, another tuberous plant which Jan cultivates. By selecting the “least knobbly tubers” Jan has created her own distinct varieties that are smooth and round. Jerusalem artichokes can sometimes cause indigestion, but Jan assures us that if you peel them and make fritters out of them they will not induce flatulence!
Many of Jan’s tubers come from South America. Ulluco is widely grown throughout the Andes and is a significant food crop. The multi-coloured tubers are sometimes available in Christchurch supermarkets, and can be easily propagated, however, don’t sell them or you might be harrassed by Crop and Food Research who have sole rights to them in NZ. Another less common Andean tuber is the anu, a tuberous nasturtium that is often grown together with ulluco and potatoes.
Being a keen preserver means that Jan doesn’t let any of her produce go to waste. For those of you lucky enough to sample Jan’s pumpkin soup the magic ingredient was Jan’s sweet chilli sauce (recipe below). In addition to making traditional chutneys and sauces Jan also creates unique beverages and fruity wines.
Supreme Sweet Chilli Sauce
250g mild chillies
2 red capsicums
8 large cloves garlic
1 kilo tomatoes
Chop the above ingredients in a food processor, or cook first and then mouli.
Add 4 grated apples
2 ½ cups white vinegar
1 kg sugar
2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp cayenne
3 tsp salt
2 Tbsp pickling spice (in a bag)
Boil for 1 hour, then bottle.
Chillies – original recipe said “seeded”, but I like the seeds appearing in the sauce so leave them in. For hot chillies with seeds I reduce the quantity to 100g, as it is meant to be a SWEET chilli sauce.
Jerusalem Artichoke Fritters
1 egg (free range)
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp wholemeal flour
freshly ground pepper
½ tsp freshly chopped rosemary
500g scrubbed Jerusalem artichokes
cooking oil – organic sunflower is nice
To create a batter beat the egg in a large bowl, then add flour, baking powder, rosemary and seasonings.
Grate the unpeeled artichokes into a colander, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Add drained artichokes to the batter and mix well with a fork.
Heat a thin layer of oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Place a large spoonful of mixture in the pan and flatten with the back of a spoon. When brown turn over to cook on the other side. Drain on absorbent paper and keep warm.
Serve with sour cream or yoghurt, or one of Jan’s favourite chutneys/sauces.
A big thanks goes out to Jan, it was great to be able to look round your fabulous garden and to learn some of your preserving secrets. Soil & Health Canterbury wishes you all the best for the next growing season.