Permaculture kitchen: Jerusalem artichoke and mushroom soup (with an Evening Primrose adventure) and canning on a fire

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry's cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.
The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I'll put a trinket on.
"III. Nature, XXVIII, Autumn" by Emily Dickinson

Autumn is my favorite season, I love the colours of the leaves and finally being able to eat pumpkins again and harvesting seeds for next year. But what I love most of all is mushroom season! Last year the poplar trees around our neighbourhood got cut down and we inoculated a bunch of tree trunks with yellow and gray oyster mushrooms Pleurotus ostreatus, poplar mushrooms Agrocybe aegerita and velvet foot (or Enokitake) Flammulina velutipes. This was my first time growing mushrooms and I have to say, it's one of the most rewarding things I've done so far. First you get to have fun with a chainsaw, then with a drill, and after that you just leave the stems in a shady place and let the mycelium do it's thing. It's been almost a year since we inoculated the trunks and the gray oyster mushrooms are growing wild. They appeared after the first cold spell and I've harvested about 1,5 kilo's of mushrooms in the past two weeks!

Another mushroom I love is the shaggy ink cap Coprinus comatus which grows just about everywhere. I'm a bit scared of harvesting mushrooms in the wild because my identification skills are subpar, but the shaggy ink cap is easily identifiable and grows just about everywhere. If you harvest the caps before they mature and start getting inky they are great for soup or ragout. Be sure to use them immediately because they turn to grey mush within a day or two. I combined them with one of the volunteer plants that set up shop in my garden: Evening primrose Oenothera biennis. Evening primrose is a cute plant, I love the yellow flowers that open in the evening and after I kept one around in my first year gardening they have spread around everywhere. I did some research and it turns out they're edible! In France they're known as 'jambon végétal' which translates to vegetarian ham. Apparently the roots taste like meat! The seeds are very healthy too, but I want to try to make something with the roots first. 

The last ingredient for todays recipe is Jerusalem artichoke. They are not from Jerusalem and they're not artichokes either, they´re a tuber from the sunflower family. Jerusalem artichokes are seriously the easiest plant to grow and they give incredible yields. I had to dig up a patch because I wanted to plant a tree and ended up with about 6 or 7 kilo's of the things from a patch of 60x40 cm. Seriously. You can prepare them in the same way as potatoes or any other tubers, they taste a bit nutty and are a great match with lambs meat. But, today they will be going in this very vegetarian (wait, even vegan!) soup.

Ingredients:

  • 1 big onion
  • About 500 gr Jerusalem artichokes
  • About 500 gr mushrooms (I used oyster mushrooms and shaggy inkcaps)
  • 1.5 liter of vegetable stock
  • Some butter or vegetable oil

Recipe:

Clean and dice all the things. I use a nailbrush to clean the Jerusalem artichokes and I don't peel them because I'm lazy because most of the healthy stuff is in the skin. Sauté the onion in the butter or oil, add the mushrooms and stir until they start to shrink. Add the stock and bring to boil, add the Jerusalem artichokes and cook for 20-30 minutes on low heat. Serve with some meat or cheese and bread, I guess putting some cream in the soup would be nice as well.

What happened to the Evening Primrose roots?

Well... I made one pan of soup with the Evening Primrose. I pulled up some plants, cut off the roots and cleaned them. Turns out they are seriously tough, really hard to cut and clean and while grating them I cut my finger and almost killed my grater. So, yes they are edible, yes they taste a bit like meat, no I will not use them again. 

Canning

Yeahhhh time to do some canning! A while ago we found a huge pot in a neighbours yard after she moved out. I wanted to use it to can things on an open fire. Unfortunately it was used as a planter so they drilled holes in the sides. I plugged the holes with aluminum foil which stopped the leaking enough to be able to use the pan. I put some old towels on the bottom of the pan so the glass jars wouldn't touch the hot metal, put the jars in with a stone on top and filled the pot with cold water. Fill the pot with way more water than you need, a lot of it will evaporate and the jars need to stay completely submerged in the canning process. My lovely partner C. built a fireplace with some stones we had lying around and started a fire with wood we harvested from the nearby forest last year. We put the big pot over the fire and now we just had to wait until the water hit 85 degrees Celcius (which takes a very long time). You keep the water at or above this temperature for 25 minutes and then you can take the jars out. This was a challenge, luckily we have welding gloves which proved to be waterproof enough for C. to be able to fish all 5 jars out without burning his hands. All the jars plopped, indicating they had a good seal and the canning was succesful. We will be using this method again, but with more jars next time!

Canning on a fire only works if your product has a pH lower than 4.6 or if you cook the jars for hours and hours and hours. Unfortunately I trusted some stuff I read on the internet, and after a week all the soup jars popped their seal. Big post on the science of canning upcoming, for now check the guidelines on this website if you want to can soup and other vegetables with low acidity and low sugar: http://www.canning-food-recipes.com/canning.htm 

Picture of the fire with with big pot and me knitting a hat:

Posted on the 4th of November, 2016