If you’re thinking about unusual crops in 2017, saffron and yacon are brilliant. Stevia is just weird.
My 3rd saffron harvest has finally been weighed and packed away. It weighs………0.9g, so with twice as many corms in 2016 I ended up with a slightly smaller harvest than in 2015.
2016 wasn’t a very good year for many of my crops and this is no exception. I think I put the corms back in too late, plus it was a very dry autumn. Certainly the stigmas I picked were often shorter and thinner than usual. To add to the woes, I missed quite a few days harvesting because of work.
Still, 0.9g is 0.9g and that will make a good few risottos, ice creams and poached pears until it’s time to go picking again. There are some intriguing recipes for saffron and orange marmalade challah and Swedish saffron buns which I quite fancy trying.
Green powder is the end product of my stevia plants. I picked a big bag of leaves, which then spent a good few hours in the dehydrator. They filled a large jar with crispy dark leaves to begin with, then after a recent session in my coffee grinder, a smaller jar of very sweet green powder.
So far so good. Stevia grows into a large bush and the leaves are unbelievably sweet. What no one tells you is that they have a strong and unpleasant aftertaste. Like dipping your tongue in artificial sweetener. Vile. The stevia you can buy is bleached white, so somewhere in the processing perhaps the aftertaste is also dealt with. Steeping the powder in boiled water to make sweet syrup will be my last try with it. Someone else in the blogosphere does it – I think it’s www.grow-veg.uk. If that doesn’t make it palatable then I can chalk it up to experience and never grow stevia again…
Yacon, on the other hand, is now on my ‘must grow’ list. I had a phenomenal harvest at just over 10kg from one plant a 40L tub. I may have said this several times…! As a comparison the Thompson & Morgan blog estimates each plant yields about 4kg.
The tubers are lovely and crunchy to eat raw, like sweetish waterchestnut or pear. They taste fabulous on their own or in a salad with sharp cheese and nuts. The pale tubers oxidise very quickly and need to be put into lemony water as soon as they are peeled. One warning though – like Jerusalem artichokes, some people get rather windy if they eat a lot. Thankfully I’m not one of them.
One of the most common suggestions is to make yacon syrup, so I thought I’d give that a go with the biggest tubers. The syrup costs eye-watering sums online – £10.42 for 170ml as an example – because it’s being touted primarily at people who want to find a sugar substitute. And if I’m honest, that was part of the attraction for me. Gally loaned me her juicer and off I went, peeling and pulping and covering the kitchen in green juice/peel fragments/blobs of pulp. The resulting 3.8 litres took hours to reduce, turned the kitchen into a sauna and, after all the straining and skimming, eventually made just over 300ml of thickish syrup. I probably could have reduced it further, but it was starting to stick on the bottom of the pan and I didn’t want to burn it. Not after all that effort! It tastes lovely. Like a malty treacle, and I bet with a bit of vanilla and cocoa mixed in it would be heavenly.
I have perhaps 4kg of tubers left – the ones that are an awkward shape/size. I could make more syrup, after all two tiddly jars won’t go far, but there are also yacon crisps…Dehydrated yacon is sweet and bland. The bonus is that it takes flavours really well. I’m going to trial more, but so far lemon sprinkled on before drying works well, and half a teaspoon of cinnamon shaken into a jar of plain dried yacon slices is just wonderful. Perfect for January ‘abstinence’!
Categories: Diary 2017