Saturday, September 16, 2006

Forever the twain shall meet

In my garden I grow the usual suspects, like spinach, leek, onions, strawberries, lettuce and kale. I have also, from the very beginning, fearlessly and not always successfully, tried my hand at 'city-people-greens', like rocket and radicchio, 'forgotten vegetables' like parsnip and cavolo nero, and exotic strangers, such as Thai basil and mustard (gai choy or brassica juncea). Bemused fellow gardeners (elderly males, mostly) shake their heads over such nonsense and refuse to try the delicacies I offer them. Now that I have huge plants of amaranth to show (this picture was taken in early summer), big round yellow beetroot, and a good harvest of buggenummer muuskes ('mice from Buggenum', an old potato variety, a kind of ratte), they simply ignore these strange crops and compliment me on my endive and carrots.
Growing exotic greens is one thing, of course, and knowing what to do with them once harvested, yet another. I solely depend on the information on the packets, which tell me that amaranth and mustard can be prepared like spinach. Goodbye to exotics, then.
Spouse, who doesn't believe that 'East is east and west is west', made a wonderful hotchpotch that combined Dutch endive with its oriental and South-American counterparts. The result was sumptuous, tangy and fresh. We ate it with leg of guinee fowl. Fried bacon or sausage are the usual companions to the traditional variety.

Endive hotchpotch with a twist
For a hotchpotch of uncooked greens one needs (per person) approximately 300 gr potatoes, 125 gr greens and a lump of butter (preferably drippings, depending on the meat you serve with the hotchpotch). Some add milk, we don't.
Boil the potatoes with a substantial pinch of sellery salt. Meanwhile, cut endive, amaranth and mustard (2:1:1) into ribbons, not too small. Strain the potatoes but keep the water. Mash the potatoes (but not thoroughly), adding the water, and butter or drippings to make it smooth. Add the greens and heat carefully (the greens should become hot, not cooked). To taste: sea salt, freshly ground white pepper, white wine vinegar.

If you're interested in the crops I mentioned: some of the exotic ones I bought are from Botanical Interests, while others, especially the forgotten vegetables and potatoes, I got from Vreeken's Zaden.


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