October is such a gauntlet to run for us. With birthday’s, school holidays and then the obligatory back to school haircuts, stationary kit refresh and new shoes, the garden can become a little neglected. Not intentionally, but life can get in the way which can be quite challenging as we are in the heart of spring and things need to be done.
Fortunately, I’ve been rather organised this season so the chaos of the last week hasn’t had too much of a toll. I could have things under a little more control, but I think that is me being hard on myself. The beds and paths are all pretty much weed free with a few tiny interlopers fancying their chances in my absence. The seedlings in the greenhouse are all in large enough pots that the risk of drying out is less than it was when they were in their tiny seed starter pots. This reduces the need for watering several times a day. Although several seedlings are hinting at the need to move into larger pots by flashing a bit of root out the bottom. So, the most the garden got this week was a quick weed and its scheduled feed – albeit a bit late.
Most of the time plants just sit there and grow slowly, however sometimes that can cry out to you as you walk past and you promise you will take care of them, but as life gets in the way you end up scuttling past, feeling guilty because you haven’t kept your promise. Eventually things get to the point where you need to do something and today was that day.
The artichokes were getting fatter and fatter and their leaves were starting to loosen from their tight grip around the flower bud. There was no time like the present, to stop them going to waste. There is only so many you can enjoy plucking them leaf by leaf, and there is only so much lemony melted butter that is wise to eat! So, I went looking for other recipes and found a great one for preserved artichoke hearts, so I set to work.
The recipe assured me I would need 9 artichokes and would get 3 pint jars of delicious, pickled artichoke hearts. So, I duly went out to the garden and harvested 9 artichokes and a couple of extras for an indigent buttery plucking session. But as I began processing them and peeling away all leaves I realised there would only be enough for 1 jar let alone 3! Ok so my jars were 1 litre jars and the recipe did say you would get 3 pint jars, so I put my treat ones into the pile. The thing with artichokes, is the waste material verses edible content is extremely disproportionate and I ended up with very little artichoke for the jars and a huge pile of peeled material. So, I made a trip to the compost heap to empty my waste container to make room for more and grabbed another 5 artichokes so I would get at least one jar full.
The recipe was quite cool, not exactly ordinary – my kind of thing, but I’m not one for following instructions so, along with issue of the proportions, I may have adlibbed with the some of the flavours.
The first step was to cut a few slivers of peel, then squeeze 4 lemons and put the juice aside for later but put the lemon carcasses into a pot and cover them with water. Then as the artichokes were peeled they were tossed into this acidified water to stop them oxidising and going brown. The peeling involved removing all the leaves, scraping out the fluffy choke bit in the centre and then with a sharp knife, shaving off the tough sides and base and tidying it up a little, without losing too much of the meagre edible bits.
Once it was all done, a quarter of a cup of salt was added to this strange mix of prepared artichoke hearts, lemon carcasses and water and it was put on the stove and brought to the boil, and then reduced to a simmer until the artichokes were tender.
Meanwhile the lemon juice came back into play and was mixed in with a cup of white vinegar, quarter of a cup of each white wine vinegar and olive oil. Then the favours were added – I put in a whole dried cayenne pepper that I grew last season and snipped it into thin slices. I also added way more garlic than was suggested. The recipe called for 3 cloves over three jars, I used 6 for one jar. I also chucked in 9 peppercorns, a handful of oregano and some thyme. These were all mixed together and boiled for 5 minutes.
By the time I’d done that and the artichoke hearts were tender, so I got out one of the three jars I put in the oven to sterilise and fished out the artichoke hearts from among the bobbing lemons and arranged them in jar as best as I could without handling them. Then the boiling herby lemon juice mix was poured over the top and a teaspoon of salt added. Then it was all sealed up with good food safety techniques. They need about a month to mature and should last up to a year… although I doubt this jar will make it much past month two! I can hardly wait.
Come again soon – the garden is almost at the point when the structures can be put up.
Sarah the Gardener : o)