12.1.11 Roots & Tubers

Cranberry reds 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife
We took advantage of the nice weather the other weekend to really put the finishing touches on the garden. The beds got a last weeding and were cleared of everything but a few kale and collard plants. All the pots had to be emptied and many of the perennials trimmed back. Living closer to the land like this makes you much more aware of the seasons and so of the passing of time. I look down at my hands stuck in the dirt, the beginning of arthritis just starting to swell a few knuckles, and I see my mother's hands. I was blessed with long, slender fingers and have been proud of my hands all my life, but this, along with my dark hair, is just one of the many vanities the years will strip from me. In return I have gained other things, including the pleasure of hearing G crow upon finding a cache of brilliant pink potatoes buried under the straw where he planted seeds late last summer. He had given up all hope of success in this department, so the discovery was that much sweeter. Have you ever seen such a vividly colored spud? I cut one open and was amazed to find that it was a rosy pink inside, and unbelievably crisp and juicy, almost like an apple. The freshest potato I've ever encountered and a sight to behold.
Freshly dug spuds 790 xxx
from the ground up
Potatoes are starchy tubers from the nightshade family and there are more than a thousand varieties. These are Cranberry Reds. The origin of the word "spud" has erroneously been attributed to a 19th-century activist group dedicated to keeping the potato out of Britain which called itself The Society for the Prevention of an Unwholesome Diet. It actually derives from early versions of the word "spade," the tool used to plant potatoes.
Sunchokes 790 xxx
the other artichoke
I came across a couple of gorgeous varieties of these Jerusalem artichokes at the Union Square farmers market and couldn't resist buying a big bag. Then I had dinner at a friend's house and he made a really delicious, creamy and earthy soup from them which further confirmed that I need to eat more of these "earth apples." They're actually a species of sunflower—thus their other name, sunchoke—and have nothing to do with either Jerusalem or artichokes. Sweet and nutty, they can be roasted, boiled or eaten raw, shaved thin in salads. They are high in potassium, iron and fiber. Some people find them challenging to digest but I haven't noticed any adverse effects.
Before roasting 790 xxx
a vegetative state
A quick perusal of the vegetable bin revealed a veritable arsenal of roots, including carrots, parsnips and celeriac. I decided to roughly chop all this bounty, together with copious amounts of onion, shallot and garlic. Tossed with good olive oil, coarse sea salt and lots of aleppo pepper—a fruity, slightly spicy chile with a note of cumin—this was spread on a foil-lined baking sheet and tucked into a 375º oven.
Roasted roots 790 xxx
a good roasting
What emerged after an hour or so, was a softer, sweeter, caramelized and more fragrant version. I ate a big bowl for lunch, with a bit more olive oil and sea salt. So unbelievably good.
Roasted spud 790 xxx
homegrown spuds
G's spuds are sweet and pure, tasting of the earth and sky. I married a potato farmer.

Vegetable Pan Roast

  • spices and/or herbs
  • sea salt
  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • shallots
  • onions
  • sunchokes
  • potatoes
  • celeriac
  • parsnips
  • carrots

Preheat the oven to 375º. Line a large baking sheet with a double layer of foil.

Peel the vegetables, except for the potatoes, and cut them into chunks of roughly the same size (about 2-3"). Remove the skins from the garlic, shallots and onions. Place everything in a big bowl and add a few glugs of olive oil, a couple big pinches of sea salt and any flavorings you like. Suggestions: aleppo pepper; vadouvan; rosemary & lemon zest; pimentón; porcini powder...you get the idea.

Roast until soft and caramelized, about an hour, turning with a spatula once or twice.

Download recipe  Download Recipe


Love the purple potatoes! I recently tried a recipe from the new book out on the Jean Talon farmer's market here for purple potato chips. Thin slices fried in oil, and sprinkled with rosemary and salt. The idea was nice, but they didn't come out crispy and lost their colour as they cooked. Maybe the oil wasn't hot enough.
Rob on December 1, 2011 at 3:58 am —
Rob, I have often found homemade potato chips to be quite challenging. I think it's about using a starchier spud, like the more pedestrian russet. And, yes, lots of very hot oil.
laura on December 1, 2011 at 4:11 am —
Rob: I know that Adirondack Reds work well for chips...and Laura, Jerusalem artichokes are supposed to be good for when you have blood sugar issues...
Lisa on December 1, 2011 at 1:10 pm —
Yep, that's because they store their carbohydrates in a form of inulin, a starch that, unlike sugar, is not used by the body for energy. It's a prebiotic that stimulates the growth of beneficial bacterial in the digestive tract, aiding in digestion and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. They are also made into flour which is an option for the gluten-free crowd.
laura on December 1, 2011 at 1:38 pm —
You just write so beautifully! I know I have told you this before but had to be said again. Such a pleasure to read your blog dearest L.
tanya on December 2, 2011 at 4:19 am —
Thank you, my love. Music to my ears!
laura on December 2, 2011 at 4:43 am —
I'm really keen to find other vars. of jerusalem artichoke that are seriously well flavoured, and not Fuseau. Which we have. It's fine, but want to add more varieties- it's a very good veg. What were yours called, and how strongly did they taste?
Deb on March 8, 2012 at 7:23 am —
Hi, Deb. I find that most of the Jerusalem artichokes I've tasted have a similar nutty but rather subdued flavor. I generally buy them at the farmers market where they are distinguished by shape and color rather than by name. I poked around and discovered some varieties besides Fuseau but, again, not much is mentioned about distinctive flavors. Stampede and Challenger seem to be the most common. Bianka has a white irregularly shaped tuber which can be harvested in October. Topianka, with white tubers, is an efficient producer. Waldspindal is also a productive species, very rich in inulin, with long light-purple tubers. Sorry not to be able to shed more light.
laura on March 8, 2012 at 8:03 am —