Archive for the ‘Salsify’ Category

My fluffy bits are bigger than your fluffy bits!

November 1, 2013

Which is what I imagine a salsify seed would say to a dandelion seed:

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As you may have guessed, the salsify has flowered and the seed heads are maturing:

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Imagine how far those things are going to travel in a stiff breeze! I don’t want to be responsible for introducing salsify to my local environment. I’d better make sure I collect every one and excise its fluffy bits. We don’t need any more environmental weeds here.

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Warm? Really?

October 9, 2013

They’re saying we had the warmest September on record. Well…I don’t know what happened to it once October hit. We had a week of freezing (well, cold), gale-force winds that saw a lot of trees and branches come down around Melbourne and culminating (at my place, anyway), in a humungous hailstorm that had me panicking about what to save first…the chooks or the solar panels. The solar panels came through it OK and when it had passed, it was hilarious to watch the Girls trying to pick up pea-sized hailstones in the belief that this was some new kind of treat that Mum had thrown at them.

I usually plant my first crop of beans on the first of October and subsequent batches on the first of every month thereafter, up until about February. They normally take 2 months to bear and I have a continuous supply of beans until autumn sets in. I checked the soil temperature in the wicking boxes and at 10º C there was no way I was going to plant them just to see them rot away. I’m still waiting for some warmth.

I also have this tray of curcurbits (zucchini, pumpkin and cucumber) to put out:

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I want to plant them on the hugelkultur mound but the soil temperature there is even colder than in the wicking boxes.

I’ve put out some tomatoes…ones I bought some weeks ago from the old guy at the Sunday market. I don’t know how he manages to get his tomato plants so big, so early, when my own seedlings are only centimetres tall. His tomatoes don’t have stems; they have trunks! I only buy from him when he has varieties I haven’t grown before and then I can collect the seeds and add them to my collection. I bought Golden Girl, Cherokee Purple and Black Krim. He reckons this one is better than Black Russian so I’m anxious to try it. It’s supposed to have a slightly salty flavour along with the typical richness of the black varieties.

Down in the garden, the salsify is flowering, so this photo is for Fran of The Road to Serendipity who sent me the seed:

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If it sets seed, I’m going to broadcast some of it into the food forest as bee forage. The flower stems are taller than I am:

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I have a nice patch of calendula growing in one of the veggie rings. I’ve been collecting and drying the flower petals in the hope of getting enough to make calendula ointment:

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These red currants are setting fruit already. I didn’t know they’d flowered:

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Oh, there they are. You wouldn’t call them spectacular. I wonder what pollinates them:

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Postscript:

I wrote this post a week ago and it was left in ‘drafts’ in favour of the solar posts. So I’m happy to say that warmer weather has arrived (forecast 30º C today) and I’ve planted those beans and some of the curcurbits.

Postpostscript:

A question for all you computer geek WordPress bloggers. In the above post I’ve got two celsius temperatures quoted. You’ll notice the little degree sign º between the figure and the C. Can anyone tell me how to do this without leaving the blogpost edit page?

Here’s the roundabout way I go about it. Return to desktop leaving blog page open. Open Microsoft Word to a new document. Click ‘insert/symbol’ and find the degree sign. Add it to document. Copy degree sign to clipboard and close Word. Return to blogpost edit page and paste degree sign into place.  It’s giving me the irrits doing this. I know I could just type 30 C and everyone would know what I mean, but I’m a stickler for doing things right. I annoy myself intensely about this. I suppose it’s the scientific training.

Plant profiles: Salsify

April 29, 2013

I’ve been researching unusual food plants and writing it all in a notebook for future reference, so I thought I would share it here. I’m concentrating on the sort of things that aren’t normally for sale in your average supermarket/greengrocer.

So here we go with the first in the series: Salsify

I’m not sure how one should pronounce this. I’ve heard Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall on River Cottage call it ‘salsi-fee’. I would have been inclined to say ‘salsi-feye’ (‘eye’ as in those things on either side of your nose that you see with). Whichever pronunciation you use, if your listener hasn’t heard it before, you’ll be considered correct and in-the-know.

Its botanical name is Tragopogon porrifolius, a horrible mouthful that makes ‘salsi-fee/fye’ sound almost mellifluous. It’s a member of the huge daisy family, botanically called the Asteraceae.

It’s a biennial, meaning it lasts for two years—grows in the first year then flowers and sets seed in the second.

It’s native to the Mediterranean but introduced into other countries, including Australia. My good friend Fran from The Road to Serendipity blog in Tasmania, tells me it grows wild near her (she sent me seeds—more on that later).

Because it’s a root crop, it likes similar soils to carrots and parsnips—deep and fine-textured with no fresh fertiliser. pH 6-6.8.

The carbohydrate in salsify is inulin—a fiber that occurs naturally in many foods like bananas, wheat, onions and garlic. Found in high concentrations in chicory root, it can be extracted for industrial use. Unlike more familiar carbohydrates, which are broken down in the small intestines and turned into fuel for the body, inulin passes through the small intestines to the colon where it stimulates the growth of ‘good bacteria’ and is fermented by bacteria. In some people it can cause gas, bloating, flatulence, and diarrhoea. If you’re planning to eat lots of this stuff, you might want to research it a bit more.

Some of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s salsify recipes are here.

I sent to Phoenix Seeds in Tassie for salsify seed. I planted it in late August last year and it germinated in 15 days. The seeds are long and spindly and should preferably be direct sown. It eventually develops a large tuft of grass-like leaves. The young leaves can apparently be used as a green, but I didn’t try them.

I kept the water up to the plants in summer (watering should be regular—irregular watering can cause the roots to spilt) and the tuft of leaves got bigger and bigger. Last week I decided it was now or never and dug up 3 clumps:

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I wasn’t expecting all those side roots. I don’t know if that’s normal or not. The largest one had a decent-sized main root anyway:

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I cut off all the side roots and this is what I was left with:

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It was almost 4 cm wide at the widest point. If it had been a parsnip, I’d have been rapt at that size.

I peeled the largest of the side roots and microwaved them. The flavour was a bit like a flavourless parsnip. I forgot to mention that it’s sometimes called ‘oyster plant’, because it’s supposed to taste like oysters. I couldn’t say because I’ve never eaten oysters. Oh, and peeled roots discolour so you need to stand them in water and lemon juice if there’s a delay in cooking.

I peeled the main root and roasted it with other vegetables. It had a bit more flavour, but only, I suspect, due to the browned surfaces.

Overall, it was easy to grow but flavourwise, on its own, not something to write home about. Probably it’s the other things it’s cooked with, or the sauces used with it that make it more appealing. Good for adding bulk to a recipe. It can also be boiled, mashed, stir-fried and steamed.

I’m going to leave the rest of the crop in the ground until spring when I expect the plants to flower. I want to see if the flowers are attractive to bees, plus I want to collect more seed. It might be a useful plant to have in the food forest for attracting bees and for times when other food is scarce.

I mentioned that Fran from Serendipity Farm sent me salsify seed. I sowed it in early December last year but it didn’t germinate. Because it was freshly collected, I suspect that, like many other Asteraceae family members, it had gone into dormancy. I’ve just sown more and it has germinated, as has what was left of the Phoenix seed.

If any readers have grown salsify, please share your experiences in the comments box.