Stoved Salsify

Salsify is essentially a new vegetable to me 1. So I was excited when my colleague Kate brought round some Salsify from her veg box on our last team work day. (She always brings a nice vegetable for us to add to lunch). I don’t know if they’re always like this but these were particularly muddy specimens.

Raw muddy salsify

I thought I could scrub them clean so I didn’t peel them away to nothing, but they’re soft so the scrubby left marks which the dirt got into, and it took forever, so I peeled the rest.

I cooked them following a braising recipe from The Cranks Bible, it is a formula Nadine Abensur uses on various root vegetables, called Stoved roots (potatoes, turnips, Jerusalem artichokes etc). For salsify Nadine suggests using: a pinch of Marigold (veggie) stock powder, a pinch of saffron, a little olive oil and a big squeeze of lemon juice and enough water to cover. After bringing to the boil I turned it down and simmered for about 20 min until tender (the liquid is mostly evaporated). Then I added a sprinkling of parsley to serve.

Cooked salsify

I like how the saffron made them turn a nice yellow colour. They tasted lovely, though the flavour is very subtle, so the lemony-saffron sauce helps. They taste a bit like artichoke, but really, it is hard to compare them to anything.

I read that they’re a good crop to grow for eating this time of year when you might not have much (read: anything!) coming off the allotment, so I’ve bought some seeds to grow for next winter.


1. I remember we occasionally served some bland looking white spears as a vegetable at a private club I waitressed at in Montreal but I don’t remember the taste. I have a feeling they could have been prepared with a little more love.)

First summer vegetable pickings

Although there is still a lot of work to do (largely because it is my first year), the early/middle summer time is rewarding because we’re starting to harvest the vegetables I’ve grown.

Here’s my first potato!

Freshly dug potato with plant still attached

Not that it is hard to grow potatoes: I found one plant growing in a bag of stones I’d cleared away when digging.

Potato plant growing in a bag of stones

We were already eating our potatoes but the most exciting moment came when we pulled up and cooked the beetroot. They’re an interesting tubular shape instead of the typical round ones.

DSC 0090

One of our favourite dinners, which Han originally drew my attention to in The Cranks Bible, is grilled beetroot and halloumi with steamed green beans. This every day dinner became quite the celebration the day we made it with our own beets. The dressing is balsamic vinegar, olive oil, roasted cumin seeds and a drop of tabasco, in case you want to try it yourself.

Our own green beans weren’t ready yet (a long way off) so these were shop bought, along with the halloumi (goat rearing and cheese making are even further away!).

Plate of beetroot, green beans and grilled cheese on a table

The next thing we harvested, and which kept on coming until December, was Swiss and Rainbow chard. I first discovered this vegetable thanks to the Hackney Growing Community‘s veg box we used to get. Here are my first pickings of leaves lying on the netting which is suspended over the plants to protect them from birds.

Rainbow chard leaves lying on green netting

One of the dishes I love to make with chard is this tart, from a recipe on Helen Graves’ food blog. That delicious looking crust is made from carrots and oats (see my comment for the amendment I make to use olive oil instead of butter).

Close up photo of a crusty tart

Fiddlehead Ferns

I was very excited to find these unusual vegetables on sale when we were in Vancouver in May. I first discovered Fiddleheads when I lived in Montreal. They are a traditional dish in Quebec and the Martimes, as well New England in the States.

Fiddleheads packaged for a grocery store

Fiddlehead ferns are the unfurled fronds of ferns, but you can’t just pick any old fern, like these freshly furled ones we saw on our hike up High Creek Falls. I’m guessing we don’t have the right type of fern growing in the UK to harvest Fiddleheads since we don’t get them there (though we have plenty of bracken). Or could it be simply that no one knows which or when to harvest them?

Ferns out in the wild

Fiddleheads aren’t cultivated here so you only get them in season and they aren’t cheap, but they are well worth spending money on. Their taste is somewhere between asparagus and artichokes, and like those, they are delicious served with lemon and butter.

Fiddleheads prepared

To prepare, brush off any loose brown leaves and give them a good wash. Then trim the woody or brown ends off the stalks. To cook them I would recommend steaming them until tender. Then serve tossed with a dob of butter, a good squeeze of lemon juice and seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Fiddleheads served