Topinambur

Not yet being in a position to rip out the oil burner and replace it with solar panels and heat pump, we had to buy about 1000 euros worth of fuel to get us through the winter without freezing our water pipes off.  Totally anticipatable and yet, the situation being what it currently is, impossible to save up for. Which means that no more groceries will get shopped before the last business day of the month, when the bank balance will become a real thing again.

The hidden bonus of middle aged spread is that it could only be a good thing to fast between day before yesterday (when Spouse blew the last 200 euros on 20 kg of freshly slaughter 16 month old grass fed bull from the farmers up the street, having heard not 10 euros per kilo, which was the truth of the matter, but 1 euro per kilo and wasn’t like, wait, that can’t be right… even beef at the shittiest shitty cheapy cheapo stores is at least 3 euros per kilo) and Friday afternoon sometime. But, thanks to the big, cheap bags that rice and just about every dried bean imaginable come in at the Asian shops around here, we don’t have to.  There’s oodles of oatmeal as well and enough kale in the freezer for a year’s worth of smoothies (literally… it took me until now to get through last autumn’s bag, and that’s even with liberally dosing the chickens with freezer-burned remainders).  And we’ve still got several tens of pounds of potatoes left from the harvest in August.

But as man and most certainly not woman, especially if she is a vegetarian, cannot live on beans, rice, oats, potatoes, and overpriced beef alone for a week without getting grumpy, I pulled on my leaky rubber boots (didn’t these things used to last longer than 2 years before losing their structural integrity?) and tromped out through the swamp that is our backyard when it rains too much and yanked up every remaining edible annual out of the ground.  That turned out to be about 10 sickly, heavily beetle-noshed leeks (that Spouse had been tasked with eating during my month away playing Florence Nightingale) and about a dozen parsnips that would like to lodge an official complaint about having been forced to force their way through the hard, sticky clay that is what passes for soil around here (fuck you, retreating Fenno-Scandian ice sheet).

But rice and beans and leeks and parsnips didn’t strike me as much more exciting than rice and beans and rice and beans and rice and beans with oatmeal for dessert.

But all was not lost, I realized, the sun momentarily parting the clouds.  I still had the topinambur to dig up.  (Actually, that bit about a moment of sunshine around here in November was totally a lie.)

Topinambur, aka sunchoke, aka Jerusalem artichoke, is allegedly a sunflower of sorts.  I say allegedly because these went all Jack’s beanstalk on me but never got around to flowering.  The third name is a misnomer.  It’s a North American plant and not only did many Native Americans eat the roots of the plant, it is absolutely undoubtable they made fart jokes as a result.  Because the carbs in these tubers are complex.  The beasts are 8-13% inulin, to be exact, which is a polymer, constructed from units of glucose, guaranteed to get your gut bacteria tooting.

I’ve only eaten the stuff twice in my life.  My MIL dug up several bucketfuls one year, having decided she needed to liberate her compost pile from sunchoke, which had totally taken it over, pushing out even the pumpkins that normally popped up there voluntarily every year.  I gave it a whirl as ravioli filling (it’s supposed to taste a bit like artichoke), but the only thing about the result that impressed me was the gas production and, holy frijole, having grown up on rice and beans, I had thought I’d known a thing or two about that.  I think I had to eat topinambur as a guest over at someone’s house once too (I remember thinking that it was a distinctly inhospitable food to be serving).  Mostly, I avoid them like the plague because it is not fun to be doubled over because your intestines are inflated to twice their normal size.

But my iconoclast neighbor, the one who just had her knee chopped out and replaced, gave me some to plant two years ago and I innocently stuck three tubers in the ground, unaware of what I was in for.  Nothing happened the first year, but then this summer, as I said, they went all Jack’s beanstalk on me and I thought about naming them Audrey I, II, and III.  Then I read that the wisest course of action with topinambur is to dig it up every autumn and if you still want it in your garden, plant a couple of tubers somewhere else.  But under no circumstances should you cease to be vigil, because one plant can produce 40 tubers every year.  (Do the math on that and you can only wonder why the whole world hasn’t yet been taken over.)

So, dear reader, today I dug.  Happily, I did not end up with 120 tubers, but staring at the mass I did dig up out of the ground from Audreys I-II, I could only be distressed by the thought that gas takes up immensely more volume than its solid.

11 25 2019b

We’ll tackle the first 600 grams (one pound and a bit) tomorrow, thanks to a recipe suggested by the internet.  Pan-fried topinambur with garlic and bay leaves.  Looks like it could be good!

And if not, we have company coming by in the afternoon to pick up some paperwork and, kindly, bring us cake. If we can’t bear to eat our way through the entirety, we can foist a few kilos of home grown topinambur off on them!  Ha!

But, anyway, aw…  The topinambur tubers have a face only a mother could love…

11 25 2019a

 

 

 

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