Some Like it Hot – Horseradish Sauce

Happy new year friends everywhere!

I’ve had a really lovely time, pottering in the garden, making things, seed saving and gearing up for a big harvest of potatoes, beans, chilies and tomatoes. Study has been high on my agenda too, and I submitted my first assignment for 2017 yesterday.

The broad bean crop from late spring was fabulous, and while I filched a few for some fresh bean side dishes, I decided to dry the majority for use in soups and stews over winter. It seems the rest of my household DO like these creamy, delicious and very healthy beans as long as they’re not boiled into oblivion – which still seems how most people serve them :-/

A couple of days ago I dug up the monster Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana, syn. Cochlearia armoracia), which was threatening to take over a significant section of the rhubarb bed! This member of the Brassica family is a wonderful herb and fresh Horseradish Sauce is so much nicer than the store-bought stuff. Having said that, it can be incredibly invasive and will grow from the tiniest piece of root.

The roots smell very mildly of mustard but don’t be fooled. As soon as they’re peeled and grated, ally isothiocyanate (mustard oil) is released, which can irritate mucous membranes in the nose and eyes. This makes me cry worse than peeling onions, so I suggest doing this in a well ventilated area and in small batches. Adding a little vinegar, lemon juice or ascorbic acid will immediately stop the production of mustard oil. I also like to add a little salt and sugar to enhance the flavour.

img_20170104_131519

I like to do the initial peeling in a sink full of cold water and put the white roots in a bowl. This ensures that the smell doesn’t get overpowering and that the roots are clean of every bit of dirt. By the way, I recommend only using the newer roots for this, the one in the picture above is ideal but any bigger can be woody. Old horseradish makes very bitter sauce when grated but they’re great for propagating more plants 😀

Horseradish Sauce (Makes 3 1/2-4 cups)

2 cups peeled fresh horseradish, grated (this can be done by hand or in a food processor)

1 1/2 teas salt

1 teas white sugar

1 1/2 cups vinegar (approximately)

a little cold water (optional)

Mix the salt and sugar carefully through the grated horseradish, being careful not to breathe too much of the pungent fumes (I put the extractor fan on when I make this!). Add the vinegar gradually and mix it very well. The vinegar counters the chemical reaction and production of mustard oil.

Naturally, I like it hot but some like it a little less intense so add a little cold water to cut back the heat.

Pot up into clean, small glass jars with screw top lids and refrigerate. This can be used immediately and will keep in the fridge for up to a year

img_20170104_131538

Also, I dug the Red Norland potatoes this morning. The tops had died back so they were ready to lift but the crop wasn’t huge. Mind you, they were planted a little later than I would’ve liked and there were only 12 seed potatoes. I haven’t weighed them but I imagine there’d be about 2 1/2-3 kg in the bucket.

img_20170104_153050

The Pentland Dell, Patrones and Carlingford plants are still green and strong, so I don’t think I’ll be harvesting them for at least another month.

A huge bonus for me was the soil improvement. I like to use potatoes to start new garden beds and this one was spectacular. Prior to the potatoes, I had the rabbit’s nursery hutch over this ground so it had some added preconditioning 😉

The soil was crumbly, dark and fluffy – very easy to get the potatoes out – and it was absolutely full of earthworms. A far cry from the hard, compacted dirt that used to be here!

img_20170104_103101

I’m planning to turn in the mulch, throw on some worm castings, sheep poo and mushroom compost and put more raspberries in this bed during winter.

Meanwhile, I have to think about what to have for dinner. Maybe a couple of Red Norland potatoes with garlic and horseradish butter and a piece of fish on a bed of silverbeet………

Take care friends and hope you’re all well and happy ❤

img_20170101_104603

For the Love of the Humble Spud – Day 5 NaBloPoMo 2016

Winter in southern Tasmania this year was a very mild affair (compared to 2015’s coldest winter in 50 years) and at the end of autumn I was given a present by a gardening friend. It was a Pink Fir Apple potato, considered by many to be the ultimate potato for salads.

Regular readers of my blog might remember that once this precious little beastie had started to sprout, I cut it up and planted it in a tub in the greenhouse to see if I could grow potatoes over winter here. You can see the original post here, which includes a link to Dan, who was my inspiration for this whole experiment. Though Pink Fir Apples aren’t without their problems, being quite susceptible to many common diseases, I thought it was worth a try.

Originally, my plan was to harvest them after roughly 100-120 days but I decided to let it go to about 140 days from planting. Space in the greenhouse is starting to tighten up and once I start potting up basil in the coming weeks, it will be at a premium so I decided today was the day!

img_20161105_103329

Pink Fir Apple Potatoes in a Pot

The yield wasn’t fabulous but I learned a lot from the experience, most notably that I should try this again with different types of potatoes – and that I really do need a bigger greenhouse! Pink Fir Apple are a very late cropping variety and in hindsight, I probably should’ve waited longer before harvesting these or used a different variety. Oh well, next time 😀

I also had a couple of Pink Eye seed potatoes that I planted at the same time. Pink Eye is a delicious, determinate early variety, beloved throughout Tasmania. The pot wasn’t as big but it’s yielded a nice little feed of lovely, fresh spuds for tonight’s dinner. Now I’m feeling better a simple dinner of potatoes, salad (from the garden of course) and a little grilled meat sounds really delicious!

img_20161105_113214

These aren’t the only potatoes I’ve got this year. There’s Pink Eyes and Nicola’s in the ground that are quite advanced and looking extremely healthy, and I recently planted a swag of seed potatoes that I bought from a local company Tasmanian Gourmet Potatoes. I’ve always had great results with their certified seed potatoes and they’re great to deal with. Also, they will post to anywhere in Australia, so worth checking out! This year I bought Red Norland, Pentland Dell, Patrones and Carlingford

My personal favourite is the Red Norland, a delicious potato with beautiful white flesh and gorgeous red skin. Lovely in salads, but equally good baked or boiled and they seem to keep quite well.

Red Norland Seed Potatoes

Red Norland Seed Potatoes

They’re all in the ground now and most have sprouted through their blanket of mulch. As you can see from the Red Norlands above, I allowed them to sprout or “chit” (I love that word!) in a brown paper bag before planting out. I’m hoping for a decent crop from all and determine which are the best varieties for storing over winter. Like the garlic crop, I’m trying to grow enough to cover my household’s needs through winter. This is reasonably demanding considering the amount of ground a crop of potatoes will tie up and the number of roasts we have through the colder months.

Not bad considering I wasn’t all that keen on potatoes when I was a kid! But as Sam said to Gollum in Lord of the Rings, “boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew”. In the years I’ve been living in Tasmania, I’ve become quite a convert to the charms of the humble spud ❤

And to finish, another completely unrelated cute bunny pic – because cute bunny 😀

img_20161103_095915