How to get a little sun in winter
Winter on the eastern coast of Scotland can be quite bleak by the time we’re blown into February. Any sunshine-filled days that inspire hope are replaced by gusty afternoons blowing the woods sideways. Colstoun’s walled garden is one place we find respite from the dead of winter, with the evergreen lawns (a nice byproduct of Scotland’s ever-wet climate) surrounding dozens of raised beds we put in early 2016.
The only color we have left in the garden after winter is freshly sprouting tulip bulbs (if we can keep the deer away from them) and deep purple rhubarb stalks. But there’s enough going on underground to keep us very, very happy. Jerusalem artichokes—no relation to Jerusalem and a very distant relative to the artichoke—are a tuber native to North America. Also called by their pet names: sunroot, sunchoke, and earth apple, this root veg is one of the uglier ones, but digging them out when there’s very little left to harvest gives great satisfaction on a cold February day.
Around the 1600s the Jerusalem artichoke made it over to Scotland after a history of being grown and consumed by Native Americans (who referred to it as “sun root”). An early colonial/explorer ate some on his travels and was so in love with the taste and potential that he sent some across the Atlantic Ocean. After making its way through the gardens of France and Italy, it arrived in England where the first mention of “Artichoke of Jerusalem” was printed in the Oxford English dictionary in the 1610s.
It’s a Colstoun favorite because of the fact that it’s not only beautiful when in bloom but dual-purpose with its edible root—we’re blessed with flowers during spring and summer, as well as unique ingredient for soup making throughout winter—sustainability and beauty all wrapped up in one crop.
Recently, we spent the afternoon uprooting and processing some of our own Artichokes for a Seasonal Entertaining course, as this seasonal vegetable is perfect for an elegant, creamy winter soup. After months of stews, casseroles and chilis, it’s nice to switch things up and move into lighter meals accompanied by a fresh parsley garnish. And not only is this soup a welcome break from the heaviness of winter meals, it has rich, sweet qualities due to its high percentage of inulin (76%), which is converted into a carbohydrate similar to fructose as the root veggie is stored after harvest.
Cooking time: 40 minutes - Serves: 8-10
50 g butter
600 g onions chopped
600 g potatoes, peeled and chopped
1.1k g artichokes, peeled and chopped
Salt & pepper
1.2 litre light chicken stock
600 ml milk Freshly chopped parsley
Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan; add the onions, potatoes and artichokes.
Season with salt & pepper, cover and sweat gently for about 10 minutes.
Add the stock and cook until the vegetables are soft.
Liquidise and return to the heat.
Thin to the required consistency with the milk and adjust the seasoning.
Garnish with parsley.
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