November 8th, 2013

Sunchokes and luffa?  You know it’s getting colder outside.  Jerusalem artichoke, sunchoke, sunroot, earth apple, and topinambour are all names for a ginger- looking root.  Over 7 feet tall, these flowers brighten up our perennial area for a solid month in the early fall.  The sunchoke has a mild, sweet and nutty.  Quoting From Asparagus to Zucchini cookbook “Surprisingly, sun chokes are free of any starch, and have instead a polysaccharide called inulin that’s  digested slowly and lowers blood sugar, making it a highly recommended food choice for diabetics.”  It turns out there’s a sweetener on the market based on the Jerusalem artichoke!
The other new thing to add the list is the luffa sponges.  Not creatures of the sea, but presented in the shape of a sponge, these luffa sponges are a wonderful ecological way to exfoliate your skin in the shower or clean your dishes. 


Third try is a charm.  Each year, we’ve started the luffa earlier and earlier in the spring to get it to complete its long growing cycle to dry down so that we can collect the fibrous fruit.  The timing coupled with a change in seed have allowed us to finally present you with this sponge!  This vining affair needs some solid support, the vines will create a wall or a carpet if needed. 

Once the greens have established, contrasting little yellow flowers erupt along the trellising.  Then the bees come and visit regularly until the frost.  Cucumbers start to appear – the young ones are edible – popular in China and India.  We wait for them to get several feet long, and they get very heavy with the water weight.  Thus the solid structure -- we didn’t trellis them in time this year and they decided the high tinsel strength electric deer fence would do.  They pulled down the top several strands of wire, grounding the wire and inviting for the deer to step right over.  Surprisingly, the deer did not take the bait, sparing the neighboring sweet potatoes.  I think they were concerned about getting their hooves tangled up in the vines, I get tripped up in every venture between the fence and luffa rows.      

When the luffa gets to its desired size, it starts to dry down and turn brown.  You can hear the seeds rattle inside when they are ready.  Peel the outside and ta da – a sponge awaits.  We remove as many seeds possible and soak them in a mild bleach solution to remove the stains.  Both the Dixie Classic Farmer's Market and the Old Salem Cobblestone Market have some excellent homemade goat soaps available, a good combination with your new luffa!

Have a great weekend,
Natalie and the Sugar Creek Crew

Sunchokes au Gratin from Harmony Valley Farm via Asparagus to Zucchini cookbook
·        -  2 pounds sun chokes
·         - Salt and pepper to taste
·         - ½ c grated Parmesan cheese
·         - 2 T butter, in pieces
S    Scrub or peel Jerusalem artichokes.  Steam or boil until just tender.  Slice thinly and lay out in a casserole dish.  Add salt and pepper.  Cover with cheese and dot with butter.  Bake at 375 degrees 7-10 minutes, or until cheese has melted and browned.  Makes 6-8 servings.

Mustard Greens Pancakes from Ariane
·         - 1 small onion, diced
·         - Large handful of mustard greens, coarsely chopped
·         - 1 T olive oil
·         - 2 eggs
·         - 2 c milk
·         - 1 c flour
·         - ¼ tsp salt
·         - 1 T melted butter

Put olive oil in a hot skillet, add onions.  When onions are translucent, add the greens and cook until wilted and add another 2 minutes.  Set aside.
Mix eggs, milk, flour and salt together.  Let sit ½ hour.  Add melted butter.  Mix the greens in and make thin pancakes, like crepes.  Good with lignonberry sauce (like cranberry), or bacon. 

Stir–Fried Bok Choy with Cashew Sauce from Asparagus to Zucchini cookbook
·       -   ½ c raw cashews
·        -  ¼ cup white wine vinegar
·         - ¼ cup sugar
·         - ¼ cup soy sauce
·         - 1 T minced ginger
·         - Pinch of red pepper flakes
·         - 1 ½ pounds bok choy
·         - ¼ cup peanut oil

Toast cashews in a dry skillet, tossing frequently, until lightly brown and fragrant.  Combine cashews, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, ginger, red pepper flakes, and 2-4 T water in a blender or food processor; puree until smooth.  Set aside.  Wash bok choy stems and leaves well, making sure to rinse away dirt in the ribs.  Separate the bok choy leaves from the stalks.  Cut stalks into 1/2” pieces and roughly chop the leaves.  Het peanut oil in a large skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking.  Add bok choy stems and cook, stirring often, until crisp-tender, 2-3 minutes.  Add the leaves and cook until they wilt and turn bright green, another minute or so.  Remove to a platter and cover with cashew sauce, or serve sauce on the side. 

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