No more vibrant green salad leaves or tender young green beans to pick from the garden. No more sweet red tomatoes or pungent basil leaves from the greenhouse. We are in autumn/winter mode pulling the last beetroot, waiting for the leeks to grow a little bigger and digging parsnips from the garden. And we’re digging big, muddy clumps of Jerusalem artichokes.
Ten years ago we took over a field where the previous farmer had planted Jerusalem artichokes for game cover and every year, true to form (because artichokes are notorious for running riot if grown unchecked) the plants have grown and multiplied. Each winter Bill has dug a few tubers and we’ve remarked how good they taste and that should we dig some up and plant them in the garden, which would be much closer and more convenient. Finally, last winter we actually got round to doing it and over the summer the plants have soared upwards, a few yellow flowers emerged as the plants twisted to catch the sun and finally the stems gave away and they fell across the neighbouring vegetable bed completely obscuring the leeks.
Last week we cut off the stalks and I dug up one plant and brought in a trug full of tubers, scraped the mud away and scrubbed them clean. We ate some of them simply browned and roasted in a little butter and made the rest into soup – chopped onions, celery and artichokes softened in a little butter then simmered until soft in chicken stock, with a couple of bay leaves tucked in. Once pureed and scattered with some chopped parsley we had a velvety soup that tasted earthy and wintry. However, we have to choose the right day to eat this as it’s not a soup to eat before going to keep fit class. Or to play netball. Or to sit in a small room with company. There is good reason why my brother-in-law Charlie refers to it as Fartichoke Soup.