Turnips, Bok Choi, Jalapeño Chillies and a Carrot...
I know turnips are great to add to soup, and I got some 'Early Purple Top' turnips in my Late Summer / Autumn Seed Pack from LivingSeeds so I though I should give them a shot. To be honest, I don't know if I even like turnips, but I do love planting teeny tiny seeds in the ground and getting actual food out! And I'm always up for trying new ingredients.
Fast forward a few weeks and I go into my garden and turn this aside...
...to find these:
They were so beautiful I didn't really want to peel and chop and cook them quite yet - so I took a couple more photos...
I won't bore you with my photographic study of turnips, because we actually managed to harvest a few other things in May... like these gorgeous green jalapeño chillies...
This wasn't even all of them! I got quite a good stash - enough to make three bottles of sliced pickled jalapeño chillies. It was also my first attempt at lacto-fermentation using this recipe - it was super simple and the result was delicious! It's basically just sliced garlic and sliced jalapeños in a brine mixture, left on the counter for a few days. Check the recipe linked above to get the exact proportions and precautions though! I can't wait for my next batch to make more - they were a hit at our hamburger evening! I'll definitely be writing more about lacto-fermentation in the future - so watch this space.
Another veggie that you don't often find at the shops here, and if you do it usually looks rather sad and wilted and/or it is crazy expensive, is bok choi. It has always been a favourite of mine so I ordered some seeds especially. Did you know that bok choi and turnips are both the same species - Brassica rapa? Crazy eh? Apparently turnip greens are quite nutritious, but if I definitely prefer bok choi greens myself! And it is such a pretty plant - I love the contrast of the glossy dark green leaf and the bold white vein structure... it almost seems a pity to eat it - maybe I'll just take some photos...
Does one ever get over the joy of getting food from the ground?
And beautiful food at that? I'm sure I never will.
I will always have bok choi in my garden if I can - I'll find a shady spot for them in summer and harvest them small if necessary as they tend to bolt / go to seed when the weather is too warm...
I sometimes put fresh baby leaves in salad, or give it a quick stir fry with some garlic and soy sauce, or I make this great winter warmer - Chicken, Ginger and Bok Choi Soup (Adapted from this Epicurious recipe)
- 2l chicken stock (4 Knorrox Stock Cubes or 2 Stock Pot Containers with 2l hot water)
- 1 punnet mushrooms, sliced (I just use the regular button mushrooms - a punnet is 180-220g. I leave them out if I don't have any)
- 30ml minced, peeled fresh ginger (It really is worth it getting it fresh and grating it yourself.)
- 45ml fish sauce (You can get it from most grocery shops - A bit pongy but adds great flavour!)
- 15ml soy sauce
- 15ml sesame oil (I get this from Gorima's Spice Shop in KZN - I'm sure you would find it at your local Asian shop)
- 3 cups / 750ml Bok Choi, thinly sliced (I usually put in a bit more)
Make sure you have everything ready before you start - it's quite quick from start to eat!
- 20ml rice vinegar (Also available at most of the larger grocery shops, and of course at Asian food shops)
Bring the first three ingredients to the boil, then bring the heat down and allow to simmer for 3 minutes, add the next three ingredients and simmer for 2 minutes, add the bok choi and simmer for another 2 minutes, add rice vinegar and stir.
Check for salt and pepper and serve!
And before I forget - the carrot. This was the biggest carrot in my first batch of carrots that nearly didn't make it - at least it looked big from the top, about 3cm across! So I did feel a bit disappointed when it faded out so quickly... But I certainly wasn't disappointed by the colour - this was cosmic red for sure. I demolished it all by myself rather quickly - it didn't even make it inside the house. It was delicious, so sweet and so cold. (English boffs will recognise that line from here.)
I can't wait until the rest of them are
It's those moments where you can walk into your garden and fetch most of your ingredients for supper that make all of the dirty hands worthwhile! People do sometimes ask me if it really is worth the time and finance and energy to plant your own vegetables, and my answer is that I'll make sure it is! To that aim though, whenever I do harvest something, I weigh it and record the number of items (if relevant) in my gardening journal - so that I have a record of the weight of food produced by each bed over a period of time. Just simple record will help me to know how I'm doing year on year, and help me really work out if what I'm doing is 'worth it' and perhaps inspire others to try the same thing!
As I take the builder's rubble out of my soil, I have to put something back in, so getting compost from my garden waste will be my next step - watch this space!