Fermented Fartychokes

Okay, lets talk fermenting….it’s a brilliant way of preserving foods and preventing them from rotting or exceeding their Best Before Date. Every country has it’s own special cultural identity of fermented foods, take Germany and it’s Sauerkraut, Japan and it’s Miso and Natto, Korea and it’s Kimchi….. Not only does fermenting preserve these foods, but it also imbues a special beneficial bacteria (probiotics) to the gut. Heard of the new buzzword, “microbiome“? Well it’s the beneficial bacteria that reside in your gut. It helps us digest food and boosts the immune system.

Picture 1: Time for digging up the tubers.

We have always loved our sauerkraut, which we used to buy from the supermarket or health store. It was only 8 years ago that I went to a workshop to learn how to make my own ferments…..wow, it opened up a whole new world for me, and a small obsession! We grow much of what we eat, and as every gardener knows, it’s boost or bust. At any one time, you have a glut of one type of vegetable ready to harvest, but short of eating it 3x a day, for 3 weeks, how else to honour what you’ve grown and it not end up in the compost bin? Ferment it!

Picture 2: golden nuggets of Jerusalem artichokes emerge…..

I have shared recipes for fermenting or curing olives (yes, these too, are a type of ferment!), sauerkraut, feijoa fizz or cider and kombucha. In my fridge, the bottom shelf is dedicated to storage of my ferments and I like to know I have a stash available. I start to panic if I get down to my last 3 bottles……but luckily fermenting is easy, and simple to make. The rule of thumb for making a preserving brine is 1 TBspn pink salt or sea salt to 1 L filtered water.

Picture 3: Scrub the tubers well. Use a natural bristle vegetable brush or old bamboo toothbrush to get into all the crevices.

Okay, now let’s talk fartychokes………their real name is Jerusalem Artichokes, but they are neither from Jerusalem, nor are they a real artichoke. They are part of the sunflower family!! Another name is Sunchokes, a lot more apt. The resemblance to sunflowers is in the tall spray of mini sunflower-like flowers they produce in summer. They die down in Autumn, and when they resemble a pile of sticks, simply dig up the big fat knobbly tubers growing underneath and voila……hundreds of the little buggers.

Picture 4: make up the brine solution.

The nickname is a well-deserved title, as it causes….you guessed it, copious amounts of gas! So we call them fartychokes. The reason they do this is because the tubers contain a fair amount of indigestible fibre. This is what causes a little bloating and “expelling of wind so foul, it should be eaten in small amounts”……my quote. Haha! So when we use fartychokes, I make sure to only include a few in any meal. They are truly delicious, but only a beginner makes the mistake of consuming too many!

Picture 5: Slice up the artichokes.

Once planted in your garden, fartychokes can take over, if not careful. And if you try to dig them all up, you will be surprised to see how many will still grow, the smallest tubers left will sprout up again. I prefer to see this as a positive, not a negative, it’s like growing perpetual food. They are dead easy to grow, simply dig a hole, pop some tubers in with a bit of spacing between them, cover them up, water them and then forget about them. They’re not fussy or finicky, don’t need pampering and preening other than a sturdy staking to support their very tall stalks (can grow 2-2 1/2m).

Picture 6: pack the bottles with spices and vegetables.

Now after digressing, back to business and tying these two concepts together….fartychokes and fermenting. When nothing much else is growing in the garden in winter, it’s great to go and dig up some tubers but what to do with them all? As I have successfully fermented all sorts of root vegetables, I wondered if these little guys could also be fermented, so I googled them and yes! They can be fermented and as a bonus, the insoluble fibre which causes gas, is made soluble, so no gas!!

Picture 7: Cover the vegetables with the brine and close.

RECIPE FOR FERMENTING

* Make up a litre of brine; 1 TBspn salt to 1L filtered water

* Chop or slice your vegetable of choice (in this case, artichokes)

* Place a pinch of each of your spices of choice on the bottom of clean, sterilised wide mouthed jars. (Any selection of the following; caraway, coriander, cloves, fennel seeds, pepper, bay leaf, chilli etc.). I choose 3, so as not to confuse the taste. A pinch of each.

* Add 2-3 cloves of garlic in the jar, along with the spices

* Now pack your vegetables in tightly as you can.

* Once your veggies are well packed, pour brine over, till 1 cm from top. You can use a weight to weigh them down under the brine. I use small river or beach stones I’ve picked up, washed and dried.

* Now you play the waiting game…..I place my ferments on a tray as they can bubble over, and leave them on the kitchen counter. Each day, I open the jars to release the gas build up. If there is any bubbly stuff on the top, remove that with a clean teaspoon and replace lid. Well done! The ferments are fermenting!

* After 3-5 days, the ferments should have quietened down their action, and can be placed in the fridge to continue their slower process of curing or taste improving. Leave them for 1-2 weeks before eating. They will last some months in the fridge if unopened.

If, like me, your chosen veggies are fartychokes, leave them to ferment for a further few days, tasting them each day till they reach the flavour you like. They will be firm, crisp ferments. Great for chopping into salads.

Picture 8: Remove the frothy bubbles that appear on the top.

So what are your waiting for…….start fermenting! And don’t forget to beg, borrow or steal some fartychoke tubers from a friend or neighbour and plant them up for spring.You’ll be off to your very own fartychoke ferments by Autumn next year! Bon Appètit!

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